Recently I gave a lecture about composting . . . to 28 three- and four-year-olds. In high school speech class, I learned that the most important part of preparing any kind of talk is understanding your audience. Even though I've had my own preschoolers, I don't understand them at all. Honestly, I don't think I've been more frightened.
Knowing that I would have their attention for about 8 minutes, I simplified my composting presentation into 3 key points:
1. Learn what types of everyday waste can be composted, while reinforcing the message that composting is important for both the plants that receive nutrients from the compost and for reducing, reusing and recycling the trash we make.
2. Understand that the ratio of what goes into the composting bin is the simple key to producing good compost. Layer 1/3 "green" (nitrogen) waste with 2/3 "brown" (carbon) waste.
3. Turning the composting bin frequently will circulate the matter, adding oxygen to help break down materials. Heat and a little moisture breaks down waste more quickly.
The preschool has a tumbling compost bin, quite a bit of fun for the kids to spin recklessly like a carnival ride gone crazy, probably not fun if you happen to be an earthworm that got tossed in with a pile of dead leaves.
To illustrate points 1 and 2, I gathered 2 bags of waste and made two piles by the bin. Green waste included grass clippings, green leaves, some weeds I had pulled, some carrot peels, apple pieces and coffee grounds. The brown waste included dead leaves, hay (that I swiped from my neighbor's lawn, baring his new grass seed, don't tell), pine straw, egg shells (rinsed) and a few shreds of black and white newspaper. In small groups the kids helped me fill the composter with one handful of brown, one handful of green and a second handful of brown.
After filling the bin with our green and brown waste, we sang a crazy couple of rounds of the "Compost Hokey Pokey" complete with silly hand motions. You know the tune . . .
You put some brown stuff in
You put some green stuff in
You put some brown stuff in
And you stir it all around
Do the compost hokey pokey
And stir it all around
That's what it's all about
Of course, what good school lesson goes without a test! In another (recycled) brown paper bag, I pulled out items and had the kids tell me what should go in the bin and what should not. Can you guess the right answers?
Toy cars, uh, no.
Balloons, definitely not.
Dead leaves, yep.
Apple pieces, of course.
Mom's sunglasses, no.
Weeds (no seeds), indeed so.
The wee ones scored 100%. Mission accomplished. The earlier children learn how simple it is to conserve, the more likely they will continue those practices as adults.
Have you tried composting?