Grade Range
3rd-7th
Active Time
200 minutes
Total Time
7 weeks
Area of Science
Environmental Science
Key Concepts
compost, decomposition, soil
Credits

Overview

compost pile

"Compost" © 2014 Philip Cohen

In this two-part inquiry-based activity, students will practice using the scientific method while learning about decomposition, exploring how some types of garbage will decompose while others will not. Students can then go on to design their own experiment to test different variables affecting the rate of decomposition.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Ask questions about what would happen if a variable is changed.

Identify scientific (testable) and non-scientific (non-testable) questions.

Ask questions that can be investigated and predict reasonable outcomes based on patterns such as cause and effect relationships.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations. Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.

Make predictions about what would happen if a variable changes.

Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Analyze and interpret data to make sense of phenomena, using logical reasoning, mathematics, or computation.

Compare and contrast data collected by different groups in order to discuss similarities and differences in their findings.
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems. The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or their parts and animals) and therefore operate as "decomposers." Decomposition eventually restores some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem in one in which multiple species of different types are able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem.

LS2.B:Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment.
Stability and Change. Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.

Patterns. Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate, and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena.

Patterns of change can be used to make predictions.

Patterns can be used as evidence to support an explanation.

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Grade Range
3rd-7th
Active Time
200 minutes
Total Time
7 weeks
Area of Science
Environmental Science
Key Concepts
compost, decomposition, soil
Credits
Free science fair projects.