Make your compost heap happy


Visit your compost heap and feed it with new plant material.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, Geography, Social Studies

Learning objectives

  • Learn to care for their environment
  • Learn about the carbon and nitrogen cycles
  • Learn about the importance of microorganisms and decomposers in the recycling of natural materials


Teachers must visit the compost heap in advance to determine a plan of action.

It is important that the risk assessment is thorough and all areas of the garden being used are scoured for broken glass, needles or other types of dangerous litter.


  • A compost heap 
  • Secateurs (for adults) / scissors for cutting soft material
  • Trugs, litter picker, bin bag, gloves (for collecting material)
  • Newspaper, card or shredded paper
  • Forks and trowels (KS1) OR spades and forks (KS2) 
  • Watering can & water

Step by step

  1. Discuss what the word 'compost' means and list some garden ingredients to add to the compost bin. List other ‘ingredients’ that would not decompose and can be found around the school garden such as litter.
  2. Split learners into 3 groups. Group A will collect litter from around the school grounds. Group B will empty the compost heap. Group C will collect garden material to be added to the compost bin later. The groups will rotate to spend five minutes on each activity.
  3. All come together to fill the compost bin, ensure that for 1 trug of leafy, green material 3 trugs of brown material are added (small twigs, torn up newspaper, card, shredded paper). Cut up or snap any large pieces, add water and clear the area around the compost bin/heap.
  4. Finally check that learners have a clear understanding of what can and cannot be added to the compost heap and what will be thrown away. 

Hints & tips

  • Ideally a school should have three compost bins: One to fill, one to leave to compost and one to empty (Feed me, Leave me, Use me)
  • Use large logs/branches to make a wildlife log pile 
  • Use this activity as part of Earth Matters class growing topics

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