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What's in a bag of compost?

To explore how we need the right conditions in which to grow, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

by Penny Hollander

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore how we need the right conditions in which to grow, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a bag or bags of compost, plus some bulb fibre, bulbs and a bowl to plant them in.
  • Some large sheets of paper/cards showing conditions for physical growth: healthy food, water, exercise.
  • Some cards with different values written on: kindness, consideration, honesty, helpfulness, etc.
  • Optional: Food and drink for 4. below.


  1. Show the bag(s) of compost and ask the children what compost contains. A volunteer could read out the ingredients from the label on the bag. Ask the children why people use compost – so they can grow healthy plants: it’s disease free, has nutrients (food for plants) for plant growth, etc.
  2. Point out that you need different kinds of compost for different plants/purposes. A bulb needs to be planted in bulb fibre. Plant one or more bulbs in the bowl. Bulb fibre would not be suitable for all plants; so there are lots of different kinds of compost. Suggest that if the children visit a garden centre with their parents/carers they might like to look at the range available.
  3. Ask the children: apart from the compost, what else does a plant need to grow? The right conditions, e.g. enough water and sunlight, or darkness, as is the case initially with bulbs.
  4. What do we need to grow? Start with physical needs – food, water, exercise. Volunteers can hold up the cards showing these requirements. You could also illustrate by giving one child something to eat, another a drink and asking another to do some exercise. You could have some fun with this by drawing the different tasks out of a hat, or asking who’s hungry and then telling them that after the exercise they’ll be even hungrier!
  5. Explain that in order to grow properly we also need to develop the right attitudes; link this with work on values education. Again, volunteers can hold up the cards with these values written on them. As we learn what each of these values means and put them into practice, then we grow emotionally and socially too. You may wish to elicit from children particular examples of how these values are put into practice in school.
  6. In the Bible, Jesus tells a story about a farmer who plants his seed in different areas of ground (see Matthew chapter 13). Some seeds had the right conditions to grow and developed and grew properly into plants, while others did not, so they couldn’t grow properly. The story illustrates that this is the same for people: some people hear Jesus’ teachings and act upon them and some don’t value it at all and take no notice.

Time for reflection


Let’s take a moment or two to think about what we can learn from the natural world around us – about plants and what they need to flourish.

Think about the bulbs we’ve just planted and how they will flower in time.

Think too of what we need to grow and develop – the right attitudes, as well as water, food and exercise for our basic physical needs.

Are we learning how to trust, love, show friendship, forgiveness, courage?



Dear God,

Thank you that just as all plants need the right conditions for growth,

so we need not just the things that make us physically healthy

but right attitudes as well,

so that we can grow up to be responsible adults who care for all your creation.



‘I planted a seed’ (Come and Praise, 134)

Publication date: September 2006   (Vol.8 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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