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DECAYING ORGANIC MATERIALS

The decay of organic materials can be observed in several ways. This activity does NOT focus on certain decaying organic materials inside our refrigerators at home!

a. Impale an apple onto a small pointed stick. Shove the stick into the ground in a shady spot near small plants or grasses.

Observe the apple day by day, and keep a record of what happens to it. Some examples are: the first signs that something has been eating it, the first break in the skin, the first indication of decay odors, the appearance of insects or worms and where they came from, and the appearance of molds or fungi.

The record will indicate how many days it takes the apple to almost disappear and how many different agents worked on the cleanup job.

Be sure to note the weather, because heat, moisture, wind, and cold will also affect the deterioration of the apple.

b. Place a 1/2 inch square of sliced ham on the playground where it will not be disturbed. In case it gets carried away immediately by a dog or cat, it is probably a good
idea to put out another one, using a stick.

Mark the spot, and watch from a short distance to find out whether the meat gets moved, how, and by what.

c. Explore the schoolyard and list all the discarded objects that you see. Make a chart showing the objects, so that you can determine what fraction of the trash will not
return to raw materials for future life, what fraction will help to make up new soil, and what fraction will provide food for animals or plants.

Discuss the problems caused by materials that do not decay.

 
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