Composting: A Scientific Investigation

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
In this activity, learners conduct a scientific investigation involving decomposition and discover that the life cycle of trash is affected by its organic or inorganic nature. Learners develop questions, hypothesize, and record observations in compost workbooks throughout the seven-week experiment. This detailed lesson guide includes key vocabulary, background information, wrap-up and extension ideas, and resources. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 12 months

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • mason jars (6)
  • pieces of trash: an apple core, a piece of plastic, two leaves from outside, a piece of bread, a piece of tin or aluminum foil, and a piece of paper
  • soil, enough to fill six jars (from outside, not store-bought)
  • composting workbooks


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, California Academy of Sciences, 2008