The Composting Kids

Life through the eyes of a child is better than rose-colored! They find wonder and amazement in the simplest of things, learning with gusto! Today’s children are indeed the future, and I love that my daughter’s generation is embracing a “greener” thinking than mine did at her age. I’m really proud of my daughter’s school, introducing kids to gardening and composting. I’ve seen first-hand how excited the kids are to be on-board! Visit with me, the Suburban Farmgirl, and “The Composting Kids”.

Hawley School is one of my town’s elementary schools, and I ‘m sad thinking it’s my daughter’s last year there. It’s a public school, yet the students, parents and teachers are a family, and I’ve met so many inspirational folks in the past five years. I consider it a blessing that parents are able to volunteer there in various ways. I love getting to know everyone, and having a glimpse of my child’s life outside our home.

Composting, as any Farmgirl knows, is the ultimate recycling, turning scraps into gardening gold! I started composting at home in early 2010, aiming for the “Gaining Ground” Farmgirl Sisterhood Merit Badge, and have been hooked ever since. It’s amazing how composting kitchen scraps cuts down our garbage (so I use less garbage bags) and creates a lush earth for my vegetable, herb, and flower gardens. So when my friend Susan suggested I help her compost at school with the kids during their lunch period, I was happy to help.

My dear friend, Susan Burbank, and I on “Composting Day”

One day each week, Susan brings in several big buckets. As each grade level finishes eating, we walk around the café, giving the kids a chance to toss in compost-ready leftovers. The kiddos are so proud to contribute. (We make sure they don’t use the buckets to toss the “good stuff” by not eating it. We encourage them to eat their lunch, by all means). The kids know we can’t use meats or fat, and why. I think this encourages kids to eat more fruits and veggies, because they want to contribute. My daughter’s asked me to pack an apple, for example, on composting day so she can toss in the core. At the end of lunch, two children from each class get to compost. This is done on a rotating schedule, so that everyone gets a turn. The “buddies” then walk with us outside to the compost bin, and empty the day’s bucket. The bin itself is one where the scraps go on top, and the bottom “drawer” holds the rich, dark, finished compost. Students are so aware of how much and what kind of waste is collected each time, their eyes popping when we open the bottom, showing them what their efforts have achieved! We then walk them to class, reminding them to wash their hands before sitting down. The kids are so eager and proud to be one of the week’s “Composters”.

This is an example of just one day’s waste at school.

The school’s compost bin is tucked away where it is easily accessible from the garden, but out of the way as well.

The original idea came from Hawley’s math and science teacher, Mrs. Deborah Cowden. It stemmed from Hawley’s Garden Club, born when a parent of a former student was becoming a Master Gardener, and a small group of parents who formed a “Go Green” Committee. Mrs. Cowden believes composting at school ingrains the students with the idea of “Re-using and Recycling”. The compost, used in the garden, adds beauty to our school. The third grade has an environmental unit in science, and composting enriches what they learn. Mrs.Cowden also adds that by composting, the kids learn a skill, and may change the way their family does things at home, as well.

Mrs. Cowden, Math and Science Teacher Extraordinaire!

The school garden has been a wonderful addition to the grounds, tended and cared for by students and parents in Garden Club, something my daughter and I have enjoyed doing. Sharon Longo, a teacher in the district and mom to a student at school, heads up the club, which meets in the fall and spring months. In the past two years, she’s come up with fun ideas and activities to get kids involved and excited to garden. I’ve seen both girls and boys show great love and respect for our little garden, and it’s a real source of pride for them. It’s great for any school, but I think in cities and suburbs it’s especially important, since some kids may not get the chance to garden or compost at home.

This salad was made  with the last of the lettuce and sunflower seeds the Garden Club harvested one fall.  My daughter’s always loved veggies, but really started eating salad after this!

Speaking of composting at home, I recently visited a local shop, Our Green House, and found the “Scrap Happy Compost Bin”, made of silicone and recycled stainless.  Attaching to the kitchen drawer under the counter, I can neatly scoop my scraps into the bin.  From there, it can go directly into the freezer, if it’s too cold or dark to go to the compost bin.  Nifty, right? I love it. You can check it and other green products out at

So how does your school get started gardening and composting?  There’s companies that do it, (, for example), or get parents interested and willing to make it happen, like at our school.  Our school’s compost bin was a donation, as are many of the plants in the garden.  Our family planted Hostas from our yard, hoping they’ll serve as a little green legacy.

Please leave me a comment, letting me know you stopped by.  Until next time, Farmgirl Hugs from the “Snow-Burban Farmgirl”! (Thinking warm thoughts, spring’s almost here….)

  1. April says:

    This is great! I think all schools should do this. There is so much waste that could be used as a learning tool for science and future gardeners and farmers! Way to go!

    Hi April, I think it is amazing how quickly it adds up, even at home.  Thanks for reading and commenting! -Nicole

  2. Sandy Hartley says:

    I loved this article! My son attends Lafayette Charter School in Lafayette, MN, (a pre-K through 8th grade school)and we have an agriculture/technology focus. We have received a Fruit and Vegetable Grant the last few years, and the "remains" from these snacks as well as lunch scraps would be excellent for starting a composting project! We could use the excellent soil produced to enhance our green house and raised bed projects. As I am the janitor at the school, I know how much this could cut down on the amount of waste in the dumpster. Thanks for this information today!

    Sandy, How cool that your school has an agriculture/tech focus.  I am so glad you found this article helpful.  Thanks so much for reading, and drop me a line later and let me know how it goes!  Good luck, and Farmgirl Hugs to you! -Nicole

  3. Thanks for mentioning us. We have a booklet with pictures of some of our school gardens and more information about them that can be seen via the web:

    Thanks Jared!  You were recommended to me. -Nicole

  4. Mary Ann says:

    I think what this school deserves to be highly commended in teaching the kids community spirit and helping them to learn the importance of composting and gardening.

    I agree!  I’m so proud of them.  Garden Club has been really special to my daughter.  -Nicole

  5. That is so encouraging to see a school participating in something like composting! I remember bringing "nature" things to school when I was young for science classes (which included things like fresh deer hearts and an occasion when I dug up a 3 foot pine tree, not realizing how long a pine’s root system is), because my teachers didn’t have access to things they wanted us to see and feel. I’m so happy for you and your daughter to share common ground both at home and at school.

    Thanks, Ashley.  I remember being outdoors doing things like this with my parents and hope my daughter will have the same fond recollections when she grows up.  My daughter’s elementary has helped her make some great memories, for sure.  I’m really proud of the school.  Thanks for the comment! -Nicole

  6. donna says:

    Great idea..I’ve composed all my life..learned it from my mom..had a hard time convincing my took some time for that kids are now asking for their share to take home for their gardens..pass it on people..good for fishing too..we have lots of red worms for bait..

    I remember my dad composting when I was a kid, and he and I gardened together.  I’ve always had my daughter outside with me when I garden, but this year she really wanted to be involved.  She helped me pick out our seeds and start them indoors.  She likes to take our scraps to the compost bin and see our progress, and this year has asked for a little part of the yard to be her own "personal" garden.  Such a fun thing to do with kids!  Thanks for reading. -Nicole

  7. Juli Johnson says:

    Love this article! What a great idea! I will be suggesting this to our local schools. Thank you so much for sharing in such detail!


    Juli, my pleasure.  I have to thank my friend Susan again for help with this article and for her devotion to the kids and the project.  She’s so dedicated.  Thanks for reading! -Nicole

  8. Sarah says:

    I am looking into worm composting. I think that would be a great thing to get my kids to get into as well. BTW, I LOVE your snow farmgirl and apron! Very nice!

    Sarah, Thanks!  We had fun making her. 
    For the composting and info on worms, you should check out Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.  I read it when I was working on my Farmgirl Sisterhood Merit badge.  It’s a quick read, but the info in it is valuable with great points on getting started composting. It was a really fun book to read, as well.  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  9. Nicole I’m surprised it took you so long to remember composting! Dad still has a big compost both at home and at the ranch. Your Pawpaw taught me so many years ago it’s gold for your garden and he would be proud of what your teaching the young coming up. DAD

    Thanks Daddy – I learned from the best!  You still have the best gardening advice there is.  I love you and miss you! -Nicole

  10. Debbie says:

    Hello sister Nicole! Job well done… at school and here too!
    I think it’s wonderful to have a composting program in schools. Train them up right and early! So cute I love your snowburban farmgirl! Too cute!
    Happy almost spring!
    Your beach blogging sister

    Hey Deb!  Thanks so much!  Hard to believe it wasn’t a week ago and we were building that snow-girl, and today we broke out the sandals!  Alas…the colder air is coming back, but Spring is so close!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Joy Howard says:

    I live in Howard Co. Maryland. I’m currently participating in a composting program with the county. They gave me a bin and they pick up my food scraps every week. It took a little time to get the kids on board but now it’s just routine. If successful, the county will expand the program. Great school!

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