Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students complete a biodiversity survey of their school’s compost bins. They then collect data to determine how successful their school’s green waste is operating. Students make recommendations to their school community on improvements to the school’s composting system.

NRW Logo 2012-10-00 LgeThis lesson has been developed as part of the Schools Recycle Right Challenge for Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week. Register your lesson or other activities so they can be counted towards the national achievement and to receive other free support materials.


Learning goals for this activity include: Students build an understanding of the different types of waste that is in their school. They create a classification key of compost creatures. They build skills in observation, data collection and the analysing of data.

Australian National Curriculum:

Year 7 Science: 

  • There are differences within and between groups of organisms; classification helps organise this diversity (ACSSU111)
  • Interactions between organisms can be described in terms of food chains and food webs; human activity can affect these interactions (ACSSU112)

Syllabus OutcomesSC4-14LW, SC4-15LW

Topic: National Recycling Week

Time needed: 60 minutes

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – students will need assistance in classifying the invertebrates found in a compost bin.

Resources needed: Low power microscopes, petrie dishes, icepole stick or similar for poking through compost samples, fresh moist compost samples, tablets (ipads) or clip boards and writing materials.

Digital technology opportunities: As an extension students can try to photograph some of the invertebrates or use a digital or a close focusing camera to record the animals.

There’s an app for that: Home Composting for Organic Gardeners with Garden Organic.This app will show you how to make your own compost for free, helping you to feed and improve the soil condition.

Assumed prior learning: Students should be familiar with using low powered microscopes. Have already done some work on classifying invertebrates. (This activity could be extended by using it as an introduction to invertebrate classification.)

Key words: Compost, green waste, invertebrate, insect, biodegradable, bacteria, fungus, mould, decomposition, contamination.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.

These Planet Ark resources were developed by Cool Australia with funding from the Alcoa Foundation.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation

Teacher content information: A typical established compost bin that is moist will have its own self-contained food web. The animals are comprised of typical soil creatures and invertebrates that feed on decaying material that we would find in ripe fruit and vegetables. There are enough creatures to use as an introduction to classification and to explore the concept of food webs. There are not too many creatures that the activity would generate confusion among students. 

The compost bin has many familiar creatures including earthworms, slugs, slaters, millipedes, centipedes, vinegar flies, beetles and the occasional spider. Lesser known and smaller animals can include mites and sprintails. There can also be surprises such as geckoes.

Any green waste including paper can be composted. However, large chunks like branches might take years so including large chucks of wood in is not practical. Some people use complicated formulas to produce richer compost. The only imp

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Student Worksheet

Thought starters: What would it be like for a creature to live inside a compost bin?

Step 1: Compost bin biodiversity - a wildlife safari

Describe five things you remember from your wildlife experience. Then share your experience with three other students. 






What does the term 'green waste' mean?


Step 2: Who’s inside our compost bin?

You will be looking at a compost sample and trying to identify some of the creatures you will see:

  • Place a sample on a clean petrie dish.
  • Place the dish under the magnifier.
  • If external lights are used, adjust the light.
  • Focus the magnifier.
  • Use an ice pole stick or a probe to move the compost to expose the hiding animals. 
  • Use the link to the Cool Australia website to see photos that identify the creatures.
  • Record which creatures were observed.
  • If you have time note some interesting features or behaviours.


Interesting features

Interesting behaviour



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