Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

A senior intern at Life Lab, Savannah Rugg, created a composting in schools survey (still open!) to better understand how composting functions in schools and school-districts. The survey asks questions regarding types of composting, compost materials, compost management, and compost curriculum. The results to the school compost survey are summarized in the charts below. It appears that most schools are either using compost as an educational tool in the school garden or use the compost to effectively divert food waste from landfills. Attempting to do both on site seems to be the challenge because of funding and timing issues. Shcools looking to take on certain landscaping and gardening projects may be interested in getting professional services on board who can make use of materials from a Stone Depot and elsewhere.

To see up to date response data click here!

Check out the ultimate school composting resource page for information about school and school district wide composting programs, bin designs, and compost curriculum!

Types of School Composts

Of the 48 schools surveyed (as of page creation date of 3/2014) 87.5% had compost piles, 54.2% had vermicompost systems, and 29% used other forms of composting. Many schools did a combination of vermicomposting and compost piles. The other category had three responses that use compost tumblers, two have their compost picked up by a municipal garbage company, and one has an earth tub.

 

Nitrogen Sources

Most green materials for school compost are sourced from garden waste. Cafeteria waste made during meal prep and lunch room waste are the second highest contributors.

 

Browns

Schools source most their carbon materials from garden waste followed by paper material and school landscaping waste. It is exciting to see that school paper material is the second highest contributor of carbon sources for school because their paper is recycled on site.

 

Wheredoyousourceyourcompost

Most schools can often source all the materials needed to make their compost on campus, which makes the process even more sustainable!

 

whorunsyourschoolcompost

Maintaining a school compost can be a difficult task. Our survey showed those that take most part in school compost are paid garden coordinators and parent or community volunteers. Of the schools surveyed, 79.2% had students somewhat involved in the composting project.

How is your school compost managed over summer?

Numerous schools have parent or teacher volunteers that come during the summer to water and turn the compost. Also, paid garden coordinators and service-corps members take responsibility for the compost over summer. See the live data here to view up-to-date suvery responses.

How do you incorporate compost into your lesson plan?

See the responses to this survey question that list composting lesson ideas for all different ages. Many schools assign the responsibility of the compost to a single grade. This gives the students a sense of ownership in the process, and are more likely to grasp composting concepts when tied into lesson plans.

What is the main obstacle you have in running your school compost?

These responses regarding obstacles faced by schools while running school composts show that inconsistency of management is one of the main problems. This is often the case because there are no funds to pay a garden coordinator or it is hard to find a reliable volunteer.

Our survey is still open! We want to know about your school compost, so the garden education community can better understand how we use and would like to use composting in our schools. To see the live data as more contribute to the survey click here!

Please share stories about school compost successes and issues in the comments section below!

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Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
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