Student Education Program

Interested in teaching your students or children about composting? We have curated two different curriculum options for you! 

The suggested composting curricula on this Web page involve three to four segments each, and are designed for students in the 3rd to 5th grades. It is encouraged that the teacher crops each segment as they see fit, to tailor to their specific students and also to accommodate the amount of time they have.  The curricula are organized so that the first lesson incorporates big-picture ideals and progresses to the most detailed look at composting in the final lesson. 

Each summary below includes whether the segment is a lesson or activity, title, estimated length, estimated cost (for activities), and the learning objectives. Teachers are encouraged to read the full lesson plans before officially deciding to utilize a particular segment. A mix-and-match approach between “Suggested Curriculums” is also encouraged if the teachers see that as best for the students. For some of the lesson or activity plans, PDF’s are available only on the website that the plan originally came from, which is given to the teachers. 

All lessons and activities presented here are part of the TeachEngineering collection. They were originally created and tested by professors, teachers, and graduate students, with support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Gates Family Foundation. 

Suggested Curriculum #1
  • In “How Should Our Gardens Grow?”, the first lesson in this suggested curriculum, the students “learn about types of land use by humans and evaluate the ways land is used in their local community.” It is estimated that this lesson should take approximately 50 minutes. Listed below are the learning objectives as described in the lesson plan:

    • Understand and identify the different ways that land is used by humans.

    • Discuss the environmental effects of different land cover/land use decisions. 

    • Describe different types of engineers involved in community planning. 

    • Write an essay on land use from the viewpoint of a planning engineer. 

  • ​The next segment is “Composting -- Nature’s Disappearing Act”. This portion is an activity and involves multiple days to complete although the estimated total time is 95 minutes. The materials are listed in the activity plan and the estimated cost is minimal; however, teachers should look at the materials list to make sure they don’t already have the supplies or could ask students to bring them in. It is also important that the teacher has a place to store the “landfills” that has sunlight “but where odor is not bothersome.” The following are the learning objectives of the activity: 

    • Define biodegradable and non-biodegradable.

    • Explain how engineers work to reduce solid waste. 

    • Gather and record data and observations based on a landfill experiment. 

  • ​The last segment of this suggested composting curriculum is a lesson titled “3RC (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost)”.  It is estimated that this lesson will take approximately 50 minutes. The lesson plan includes a background summary of information for the teacher that is relevant to the lesson objectives, of which are listed below. 

    • Explain different methods of waste disposal.

    • Explain some of the major problems that waste disposal causes. 

    • Explain 3RC (reduce, reuse, recycle, compost). 

    • Describe the different steps involved in integrated waste management. 

    • Identify ways engineers are involved in 3RC and solid waste management.

Suggested Curriculum #2
  • The first segment of this set of curriculum is a lesson titled “I’ve Got Issues!”. The premise behind this lesson is to ask students to identify a lesson, consider different perspectives facing the issue--including their own perspective, and postulate a solution. It is estimated that the lesson will take 50 minutes. The lesson plan includes a background information summary for the teacher. The learning objectives are listed below. 

    • Define and identify an environmental issue. 

    • Understand that all issues involve multiple perspectives. 

    • Explain how collaboration can be used in solving engineering perspectives. 

    • Recognize literature as a record of human experience. 

  • The second segment of this set of curriculum is a lesson titled “Solid Waste Takes Over”. Building upon the previous lesson, this lesson considers the problem of solid waste management and how it affects the environment. In the lesson plan are links to PDF files that can enrich the students’ learning and understanding, if the teacher so chooses to utilize them. The lesson is approximately 50 minutes long. The learning objectives are listed below.

    • Understand and explain different methods of waste disposal. 

    • Explain some of the major problems caused by waste disposal and use of landfills. 

    • Understand and explain the role of engineers in solid waste management. 

    • Suggest ways to reduce the amount of solid waste going to a landfill. 

  • The third segment of this curriculum is an activity titled “Trash Talkin'”. It is estimated that the total time for this activity should be approximately 60 minutes (10-15 minutes for initial set-up, 35-45 minutes for activity at the end of the collection time). There is also an estimated cost on $5.00 although teachers should check the materials list to see if any item is already on hand or something a student could bring in. The learning objectives for this activity are as follows. 

    • Make predictions on the types of trash that a class generates during a week. 

    • Sort trash into categories (food, paper, plastic, metal, glass, and misc.) and subcategories (re-useable, recyclable and non-recyclable). 

    • Calculate the total mass of a group of items. 

    • Explain the cause-effect relationship on the environment of accumulating solid waste. 

    • Describe the attitudes of solid waste in developed and undeveloped countries. 

  • ​The last activity is titled “Write On! Making Books or Newspapers to Share -- Like Engineers”. This activity is estimated to have minimal cost and take approximately 100 minutes (two 50-minute class periods). This activity gives students the chance to communicate the lessons they’ve learned about solid waste, environmentalism, and composting into a book or newspaper. After this activity, students should be able to create a product to communicate their understanding of the multitude of engineering and environmental topics presented in this curriculum.


59530 County Road 7

Elkhart, IN  46517

(574) 522-2581


Monday - Friday: 8:00am to 4:45pm

Saturday (April through November): 9:00am to 11:45am

Compost bins NOT available for pickup on Saturday


Elkhart County Solid Waste Management District

Elkhart County Landfill

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Website managed by the Elkhart County Landfill and Solid Waste District, with support from enFocus.