How to integrate food waste reduction and composting into school curriculums
Vermont is lucky to have an active farm-to-school community of networks and organizations that work hard to integrate food education into school curriculums. According to the USDA’s Farm-to-School Census, 83% of Vermont School Districts surveyed participate in farm-to-school activities. That’s over 12,000 students involved with this work!
In addition to bringing food education into the classroom, many Vermont schools are investing their food purchasing dollars into the local food system. The average school district spends 17% of their budget on local products.
It is important that how we treat our uneaten food is also included in these curriculums. Educating children about organics recycling, and integrating donation and composting programs into school food services, help close the loop of our food cycle, futher enforce food education values, and strengthen our local communities and economies.
Composting is an organically mediated decomposition process, in which microorganisms recycle organic wastes into a stable and nutrient rich humus. The processes taking place during managed composting are well understood and the practices and resulting products are very safe.
School composting programs, especially those on-site, have the potential to teach children important lessons about decomposer systems and their role in ecology and sustainable communities, as well as personal responsibility, cooperation, and thoroughness. Within the composting process itself many areas of study overlap creating a matrix of integrative study that is easily applicable within the daily life of the school community.
- Earth Science and Ecology: Global Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles and their role in food systems, global climate, and the composting process.
- Physical Science: Density, moisture, temperature, and chemical make up of materials in our world and in the compost pile.
- Mathematics: Calculation of volume, weight, the Carbon to Nitrogen ratios of different materials, and the combination of these formulas in compost system development.
- Scientific Process: Collection of data, identifying dependant and independent variables, correlating patterns in data with compost pile conditions.
- Biological Science: Life science, food webs, metabolism, microorganisms, and the cycles of organic life on the planet and in the compost pile.
- Nutrition: Soil-to-soil nutrient cycles and the role of compost in human nutrition and health.
The following are resources that can be used to jumpstart integrating composting into your curriculum:
- School Composting Training Curriculum for PK – 2nd Grade
- School Composting Training Curriculum for 7th to 12th Grade
- “Do the Rot Thing: A Teacher’s Guide to Compost Activities” [CVSWMD Organics]
- School Composting Presentation [PowerPoint]
- On-Site School Composting Training Presentation [PowerPoint]
- Composting at Your School Assembly Presentation
- Composting at Your School [PowerPoint]
Printables (worksheets, games, signs)
For more information on farm-to-school programs, please visit or contact the following organizations: