Intro to Composting

About the Activity

In this activity, kids will learn how to compost, including the types of items in and around the home that should be composted, and exactly how to do it. They will also learn and discuss the larger environmental impacts of composting.


Grades: 3 - 8
Topic: Agriscience
Estimated Time: 30 minutes


Brought to you by Bayer and Kansas State University Extension

4-H STEM Lab Logo


  • 2-liter plastic jug or container
  • Brown leaves
  • Paper shreds
  • Yard clippings
  • Food waste: vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, coffee grounds
  • Spray bottle
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • Notecards
  • Pen
supply list icon

Activity Steps

  1. Cut the top off of the 2-liter plastic container; at the bottom of the container, poke four holes equidistant from each other (PARENTS SHOULD DO OR CLOSELY MONITOR THIS STEP FOR SAFETY PRECAUTIONS)
  2. Make notecards with signs for ‘brown’ materials, ‘green’ materials and ‘noncompostable’ materials.
  3. Place the brown, green and noncompostable materials into containers behind their respective label cards.
  4. Start composting! Place a layer of ‘brown’ on the bottom.
  5. Spray this brown layer with the spray bottle to make it moist.
  6. Next, place a layer of green.
4-H youth doing an agriscience composting activity
  1. Spray this layer with the spray bottle of water to make it moist.
  2. Continue alternating brown and green layers, spraying as you go. Make the brown layers thicker than the green (the overall ratio of brown to green should be 3:2)
  3. Discuss!

Reflection Questions
Questions for your kids and teens.

  1. What can you do to reduce food waste?
  2. What can you do with the byproduct ‘humus’ fertilizer that will result from compost?
  3. Can you compost even if you live in the city (the answer is yes!)?
lightbulb icon

Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.

One of the ways to reduce food waste in our landfills and the resulting methane gas production is to compost. Composting requires a balance of brown and green materials and the knowledge of those materials that can’t biodegrade. This is an exploration of how to compost correctly and the positive benefits that result in its usage. The differentiation between ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials is vital to composting because brown materials provide carbon for your compost, while the green materials provide nitrogen, and adding water provides moisture -- the combination of these elements are essential to breaking down the organic matter.

According to the EPA, food scraps and yard clippings make up 30 percent of what we throw away. When these items are put in landfills, they don’t break down properly. Instead of turning into nutrient-rich matter that helps vegetation grow, they release methane gas -- a potent greenhouse gas that exacerbates climate change -- into the atmosphere. Composting at home means those materials won’t go to waste and will instead be turned into humus, a natural fertilizer that you can use to help grow and sustain trees, plants and flowers in and around your home.


Start a compost bin today, and you can start to see usable humus in two to five weeks. For more about composting, visit

girl works in her home garden

Shop 4-H Curriculum and Products

Shop 4-H offers university-backed curriculum, educational kits, and products to grow your interest in gardening, environmental science and more!

gardening bingo activity from Shop 4-H

Gardening Bingo

Players select picture boards and place a chip over the corresponding garden image as cards are read aloud. Each card has facts about flowers or plants.


Marigold Kit (1)

Marigold Grow Kit

This 4-H Grows Here terra cotta colored planter kit includes marigold seeds, a soil disk, and instructions.


gardening essentials from Shop 4-H

Gardening Essentials Bundle

This Gardening Essentials Bundle is the perfect way to introduce youth to growing and nurturing their favorite fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers, right in their own homes.



Gardening Level A: See Them Sprout

Grades: 3-4


12 fun activities that include germinating seeds, growing pumpkins, experimenting with plants, and exploring vegetables and vegetable products.


4-H tool tote from Shop 4-H

4-H Tool Tote

Helps you take your brushes & tools to the Fair or spend an afternoon in the garden. Features 6 outer pockets and one large opening. Tools not included. Please note size before ordering: 8" tall x 8" diameter


mini herb garden from Shop 4-H

Mini Herb Garden

Grow herbs right inside your kitchen with this mini herb garden! Perfect for any windowsill, this kit comes with 3 pots to grow your own parsley, basil, or chives.




Brought to you by:

No endorsement of these supporters' products or services is granted or implied by 4‑H.

Help 4-H Provide Equal #Opportunity4All Kids