Monday, March 12, 2018

Make A Simple Compost Bin (a fun way to teach kids about soil)

We did a fun unit on soil last year and our big culminating project was setting up our own backyard compost bin. It ended up being much more simple to do than I originally thought it would be. In fact it's so simple, everyone should consider starting one! It's a great way to reduce your household waste, teach kids about soil and composting, and you end up with some excellent soil for your garden out of the process.

Set up a compost bin to teach your kids about soil.

Setting Up A Compost Bin:

The first thing you need to do is pick a place for your bin. The best location will get a few hours of sun a day (the heat will help speed up the composting process) but not too much sun because you want your compost to stay moist. You also want to pick a spot somewhat close to the house so adding kitchen scraps is easy. 

Once you've chosen a location, it's time to actually set up your bin. Your compost bin can be as simple as just a pile in your yard (I personally don't use this method because we have too many critters around here that would get into it) or as fancy as a store bought tumbling bin. For our bin I just used some chicken wire and made a cylinder with it. Your bin should be at least 3x3x3 foot but no bigger than 5x5x5 foot. If you make it too small or too large, composting will still happen, just slower. It's really hard to mess composting up!

Now it's time to start adding compostable material!

Material To Compost:

If your using a simple bin like ours, it's best to start heaping material straight on the ground inside your bin. No need to construct any type of floor for your bin.

In order for your bin to have the proper bacteria and nutrients needed to produce good soil, you need to use a variety of green and brown compostable material in your bin. Green materials include: fresh vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds, grass clippings, fresh plant trimmings, and seaweed. Brown materials include: dry leaves and pine needles, egg shells, sawdust, straw, and wood ashes. 

Compostable Material

Taking Care of Your Compost Bin:

Taking care of your compost bin so that it turns your brown and green material into soil is fairly simple. The most important thing is just to add green and brown compostable material to it regularly. This provides the beneficial bacteria and fungi in your bin with the food they need to stay happy and fed. 

Every few weeks you should mix the material in your bin up a bit with a pitchfork or small shovel. You should also check to see that it's moist. Too little or too much moisture will slow down the composting process. If it's too dry it's fine to add a little water. 

You may also want to construct some sort of simple lid to cover your bin on very hot sunny days and during rainstorms. I just use a cheap plastic tablecloth.

And that's it! In a few months you should have soil that is dark and crumbly and you can start using it in your garden.

Learn About Soil:

Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about soil and how it's made. Here are a few resources to get you started:

YouTube Video: Make the Most of Compost

YouTube Video: How Compost Is Made

YouTube Video: What's the Dirt on....Dirt?

Educational Site: Ducksters- Earth Science for Kids: Soil

If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my other fun kids geology activities: 

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  1. We did something similar to this when my girls were young. It's a great way to teach them about soil, science, etc

    1. Thanks for reading! Always good to hear others have shared similar activities with their kids :-)

  2. Great post and tips! I think it is indeed very educational for kids. I really want to make a compost bin for ourselves this year too so you gave me quite some ideas!

    1. Thanks for reading my post! Glad it might be helpful.

  3. I love the compost bin pictured. Is that yours? I want to make one out of wire mesh like that so it can get more air. Great article!

    1. Yep, the chicken wire compost bin is ours, it works great, and was so simple to put together.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I never thought about using eggshells for the brown matter. I have another use for those now! Thank you.

    1. Eggshells are one of our most regularly composted scaps around here :-)

  5. This post is so helpful! A great resource for teaching kids! Thank you!

    1. Thanks for reading! Glad you found it helpful :-)

  6. This is a great idea for learning and useful for the garden as well! Thanks for sharing how to set it up, we'll have to give it a shot!

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks, my daughter enjoyed putting it together and she was so excited when it started producing good soil for our garden :-)


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