The Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad
Students conduct an experiment to discover the connection between rot and leaves mixed in damp soil.
- Grades: 3–5
Field Trip Notes
Wanda wins the Most Disgusting Rot contest with her entry from the back of her refrigerator. First prize is a baby tree, and Wanda wants to plant it in a vacant lot nearby. The class takes the Magic School Bus to the lot, but the kids don't understand what a tree has to do with rot. To help them find out, Ms. Frizzle shrinks the Bus and the class travels through a rotting log in the lot. The kids discover that the dead log is teeming with life — it is both home and food for many plants and animals. And the rot is making rich soil — a perfect place for a new tree to grow!
Ms. Frizzle's class finds out how rot makes rich soil for new growth. Your students can discover the connection between rot and leaves mixed in damp soil. Children can continue this experiment for a month or longer.
What You Need
- Two 2-liter plastic soda bottles cut and labeled as shown
- 3-inch by 3-inch piece of pantyhose
- Rubber band
- 1 cup garden soil
- 2-3 handfuls of dead leaves
- 1 cup rain water (or tap water left out overnight)
- Large spoon
- Copies of THE LEAF-DECAY CONTRAPTION page
Talk About It
Ask children: What rotting things have you seen? Where did you see them? Did you find fungi or insects in the decaying material?
What to Do
- Help children set up and maintain the Leaf-Decay Contraption.
- Ask kids: What do you think will happen to the leaf and soil mixture? Make a large chart to record the kids’ weekly predictions and observations.
- After completing the activity, discuss with children: Why do you think the leaf and soil mixture changed the way it did?
Besides leaves, what other things rot? Children can start a compost heap with discarded vegetable scraps from lunches or snacks, and watch the decomposition.