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Building a Vermicomposter (Elementary/Middle)

Elementary, Middle

Description

Building a Vermicomposter is one of the action projects available through EcoLeague, a youth empowerment program that engages teachers and students in community and school-based environmental action projects. This comprehensive resource provides teachers with a variety of hands-on learning activities which include building a vermicomposter that uses red wiggler worms to transform organic waste that would normally be sent to the dump, into a natural fertilizer.

This easy to use resource includes ideas for in-class activities, step-by-step directions of the action day, as well as follow-up and extension activities.

Students engage in a variety of hands-on activities in the classroom allowing them to:

  • learn about the advantages and disadvantages of composting
  • learn how their city disposes of waste and identify ways to reduce solid wastes at school and at home
  • evaluate their own waste by determining how much of their lunch waste is recyclable, organic and garbage
  • build their own vermicomposter in order to reduce organic waste going to the landfill
  • observe, draw, label and measure the worms
  • create a mindmap about their vermicomposter
  • explore the diverse reasons to care about worms

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • How to build a vermicomposter and maintain it.
  • How to feed and care for the worms.
  • Become aware of the waste you produce.

Strengths

  • The resource allows teacher to meet curriculum expectations through highly engaging and environmentally-focused learning activities.  
  • The resource contains detailed background information for the teacher and students.
  • The resource provides authentic action experiences, large and small.
  • Each lesson in the resource clearly states its learning outcomes, description of the activity, materials needed, preparation and assessment options.
  • Wide range of learning styles incorporated into the lessons.
  • The resource is well organized and easy to use.
  • Classroom support is offered to teachers through resources on the web.
  • Workshop opportunites available to learn more about the action projects and environmental issues.
  • The resource was created in 2007.

Weaknesses

  • No modification for diverse learners is provided.
  • Limited outdoor activites

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Themes Addressed

  • Waste Management (3)

    • Composting
    • Solid Waste Disposal
    • Source Reduction

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good
  • The resource objectively presents the environmental, social and economical impacts of vermicomposters. The website Ecoleague provides links to background information on the authors' and the organizations' values and biases.
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good
  • The resource addresses many issues including the environmental, social and economical dimensions of reducing organic waste going to the landfill.
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good
  • The resource promotes dialogue and exploration of waste issues through a problem-solving approach. The resource informs students about the environmental and social advantages associated with reducing organic waste by vermicomposting.
Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Very Good
  • The resource provides an authentic action experience as well as suggesting extension activities to extend the learning. 
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good
  • Through the creation of a mindmap students explore the diverse reasons to care about worms and share their beliefs about organic waste going to the landfill.
Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
  • Not considered in this resource
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good
  • The resource encourages students to get to know their worms through discussion and hands-on activities.
  • Suggests teachers organize a field trip to the city landfill.
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good
Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good
  • The resource takes a look at our present landfill sites and how vermicomposting is one of many options towards reducing waste in the future.
Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good
  • The resource includes a variety of different hands-on activities, which encourages students to find as many answers or solutions as possible. Brainstorming, questioning, discussion, designing, and reflection opportunities are included throughout the resource.
Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good
  • Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and the Arts are integrated into this resource.
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good
Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good
  • Students transform classroom learning into community action by building their own vermicomposter.
Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Good
  • Students participate in a cooperative trivia game and work in groups to build a vermicomposter
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good
  • Student assessment rubrics, journal responses and reflection activities are suggested.
Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Very Good
  • Students create and present a short educational presentation for each class that receives a vermicomposter.
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good
  • A field trip to the city landfill or another facility that handles municipal waste.
  • Through a waste audit students take a look at the waste their class creates.
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good
  • Extending the learning activities are suggested
Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.