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Garbology K-2nd | Series 3, Lesson #3


Key Topics/Vocabulary: Decomposition, Breakdown, Compost, Decomposers, Organic Material, Rot, Soil

Grade Level: K-2nd

Click here for #3 Series Description

Spanish Lesson Plan

Science Framework

Lesson Bridge:

Connect this lesson to Taco ‘Bout Plants (2) by asking students to consider which types of waste break down and which types do not. Do the six plant parts break down? Close the loop with this series by sharing that compost provides more nutrients for seeds to grow into even bigger and stronger plants.

Lesson Overview:  

In this lesson students will learn about which types of matter can decompose by conducting a simple experiment. Items will be sealed in a bag with soil for a month then observed and weighed. Students will: observe changes over time due to decomposition, notice patterns and classify materials based on their ability to decompose, and explain how matter changes throughout decomposition.

Suggested Activities and Learning Objectives by Grade:

Essential Question(s) that Connect CCCs and SEPs:


Decomposition-To breakdown or be broken down into smaller parts.

Breakdown- To separate or break something into smaller parts.

Compost- A mixture of organic material that can be used to help plants grow.

Decomposers- Living things that feed off of dead plants and animals and break them down into soil.

Organic Material- Material that came from something that was once alive.

Rot-The process of decomposition! When something is rotten, it is breaking down.

Soil- The part of earth's surface that we can grow food in.



Activity Procedure:


Have you ever seen food spoil or go bad? What did it look like? What do you think was happening to it?


Take a look around the garden and see if there are any plants or leaves that look dead. Let students observe them and ask them what they think will/is happening to them? How is decay part of the cycle of life? While in the garden, let each student pick something natural off the ground (not off of a growing plant) to use in the experiment and then return to the tables for an explanation.


When things break down to make soil we call that decomposition. When you find leaves on the ground they are usually in some stage of the decomposition process. A lot of garden bugs and mushrooms help things to decompose. Mold also helps decomposition happen. Who here has heard of germs before? There is a type of germ in the soil called bacteria. Even though bacteria can make us sick, it helps the soil stay healthy because it helps plants and sticks decompose. Define the remaining vocabulary words.

Action: Compost in a Bucket/Bag

  1. Place all of the student's items into the compost bucket. Make sure to add some items that will not decompose such as wrappers/packaging. Note: If you wish to get a weight so you can see the difference in before and after weights, first have students weigh themselves with an empty bucket and then subtract this from the weight of the bucket containing items.
  2. Add a little bit of fresh soil and explain that one tablespoon of good garden soil has 1 billion bacteria in it!
  3. Let students take turns spritzing the bucket with water.
  4. Attach a lid to your bucket that will keep critters out but let some air in.
  5. Place the bucket in a shady spot in your garden or shed.
  6. Use masking tape and sharpie to date it.
  7. If necessary, label it with the teacher’s name or room number to distinguish it from other classroom’s experiments.


What do you think will have changed in the bucket in a month? Raise your hand if you have a prediction you’d like to share with the class.

Extension Activities:

One Cool Earth's Zero Waste Videos:

A few other great videos: 

This lesson was prepared by One Cool Earth under award

NA20NOS4290033 from the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program

of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S.

Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and

recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect

the views of NOAA or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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