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KIDS AND COMPOSTING

Sela Shiloni, left, and Zachary Rosanova struggle with a full-sized pitchfork to turn a pile of compost - good exercise and a good lesson in caring for the earth.

The kids may hold their noses. They may complain gleefully that it looks like vomit. But eventually, children will succumb to the magic and mystery of composting.

Composting is the living recycling process that turns nature's trash into treasure garbage into gold, so to speak. It's catching on throughout the country as a way to reduce garbage output and enhance the health and vitality of the earth's soil.

For children, composting at home or at school offers a rich learning opportunity. It often provides a critical missing link in nature's cycle of growth, decay and renewal. Children generally understand that seeds sprout and grow into plants that we eat for nourishment. But our culture, uncomfortable with death and decomposition, tends to cover up the rest of the cycle.

Composting shows children, almost before their eyes, how food and plant waste transforms into rich, reuseable dirt that nourishes the earth and its new growing plants.

"It's important to see that out of decay and death comes new life and rebirth," says Rob Farmer, a biodynamic composting expert. "If children experience that process of transformation in a real, concrete, hands-on way, consistently, it builds a picture of nature that gets them in closer touch with the reality of the natural world."

These experiences with the natural world are even more important for youngsters in today's "virtual reality" climate, where childhood threatens to become more and more simulated.

How you involve children in the process of composting can make the difference between disinterest and enthusiasm, groans and awe.

First, decide on which composting method to use. Worm boxes, in which worms eat the garbage and enrich the soil with their castings, might be best for you if you live in an apartment or have a small amount of kitchen scraps. A simple, backyard heap might work for your family. Or, you could organize a huge community compost pile or start one at your child's school.

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Written by: Linda C. Puig. Excerpted with permission from the San Diego Earth Times.


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