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 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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Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program for their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
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We are so grateful to be starting 2018 with such strong support! Because of so many generous gifts from our supporters like you, we surpassed our 2017 fundraising goal of $124,000, with all campaign donations totaling $125,835.

These funds will help make Life Lab field trip and summer camp programs possible for children from families and schools that could otherwise not afford them. We believe that ALL children deserve the chance to love learning, healthy food, and nature. Thanks to your support, this year we will serve even more children in Santa Cruz County and across the nation.

THANK YOU!

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Happy almost 2018, Life Lab fans! We are only $809 dollars away from reaching our $124,000 year-end fundraising goal! Before you ring in the new year, will you help us ensure a promising 2018? 100% of the funds necessary to do this important work come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that we can continue to deepen and expand our reach, so that even more children can experience the joy of loving learning, healthy food, and nature? Your tax-deductible gift made by midnight tonight will go directly to supporting our programs.
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End the year making a life-chaning difference!
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With women and people of color still underrepresented in scientific fields, "I'm a scientist!" is a powerful statement coming from a 2nd grade girl in Watsonville. It came during a field trip to our Blooming Classroom field trip program. Young students look at flowers on living plants in the garden, see pollinators interacting with them, and pick a flower to dissect and explore its parts. Then they draw the flower and label all the parts they learned about in a lesson with our garden educators. This hands-on, garden-based science in action, and the feeling it gives students is exciting!

These ah-ha moments happen all the time at Life Lab, inspiring children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature. 100% of the funds needed to create these life-changing experiences come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that thousands of children each year can experience the joy of hands-on garden-based learning? Your tax-deductible gift will go directly to supporting our programs.

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We all know that hands-on experiences are critical to learning. No one would dream of teaching technology without computers: in fact, in many schools today they are mandating 30 minutes of screen time per student, per day. Why on earth with this understanding are we trying to teach earth and life science without giving them exposure to earth and life? School gardens are spaces--outdoor classrooms--where students can learn science and apply math and language arts, in a context that feels relevant to them. And what might happen if we elevated the status of hands-on, experiential, outdoor learning? What might happen if schools started mandating 30 minutes of dirt time per student per day? This would be time where they could apply what they're learning in the classroom outdoors to the world around them and develop a connection to it. Well that’s what we’re here to find out!
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"This field trip was a fun experience that taught me how to eat healthy food in a fun way." -6th grader on a Feeling Fine with Fresh Foods Field Trip
Help grow the next generation of healthy eaters!
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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.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
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.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom