Life Lab

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

How Do Schools Compost?

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.

To see the live data as more contribute to the survey 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 to date 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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Thanks to the Whole Kids Foundation for the generous grant and to Big Creek Lumber for your donation to the Amesti Eagles' Garden. With the generous support of Life Lab and other community supporters, our students are receiving the gift of hands-on Next Generation Science Standards and learning about healthy eating in a beautiful outdoor classroom!

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Do you ever wonder what is living just below the surface of the San Lorenzo River? Join the Coastal Watershed Council and Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History for tomorrow's Exploring the San Lorenzo River tour and find out!

We will be meeting at 8:30 on the Santa Cruz Riverwalk next to Mike Fox park and will be seining for fish and collecting benthic macroinvertebrates aka bugs! We will learn about the organisms that live in the San Lorenzo River and their food webs. This tour is open to all ages. You can sign up online or by emailing CWC River Scientist Alev Bilginsoy at abilginsoy@coastal-watershed.org. Learn more at coastal-watershed.org/what-we-do/exploring-san-lorenzo-river-series/.
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At a @soilbornfarms school garden conference, in a workshop on trees reminded me of this incredible Radiolab Podcast podcast. Listen to this one. ... See MoreSee Less

Forests feel like a place of great stillness but dig deeper and there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city. 

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LIFE LAB on MAUI! so AnB stopped sugar production on Maui this year, there is tons of land available to lease and they are now taking offers. If farmers or farm educators won't get to it, it will turn into development, there are not enough offers from farmers and we need more, so please pass this on to those that are interested. To speak to An B need to look them up and make an offer. They are taking offers now! ... See MoreSee Less

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Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside

Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.

Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps

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.

Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary

Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.

Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom

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.