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Ode to Poop: Food for Ought

Key Concept
Poop, decomposition, decomposers, waste

Learning goals
Students will…
● Understand that human poop will decompose if left in the natural world (just like poop
from other animals).
● Understand that decomposed human poop recycles nutrients continuously back to the
land from which they came as oppose to being buried in a dead-end landfill.

Curriculum expectations:
ON: Grade 11: Biology
C1. Relating Science to Technology, Society, and the Environment

C1.1 assess some of the effects, both beneficial and harmful, of microorganisms in the
environment (e.g., decomposers break down waste, E. coli in water systems poses a severe
risk to human health)

Description of task
● The playing area is set up in a wooded area with up to six poop stations (a can with
poop, and nitrogen and carbon balls), two flower stations (bucket to receive wooden
balls and poker chips) and a homebase (bucket with poker chips).
● The soil players enter the playing area first and search for a soil station.
● The decomposers enter the playing field next to search for a poop station and a soil with
one life chip per decomposer, holding onto a rope loop to keep them together throughout
the game.
● When a pair of decomposers find poop and soil, the decomposers start to eat the poop.
*decomposers can’t begin this process until soil is present.
● Once the poop is eaten, the soil collects the carbon and nitrogen (wooden balls) from the
poop. The decomposers and must give up their life chips to the soil.
● The decomposers return to the homebase to gather more life chips and start their
process over again.
● The soil must now find a plant station to deposit the nutrients (carbon and nitrogen balls
and the decomposers life chips) that will be taken up by the plant.
● When the activity is over, look at the nutrients in the plant pails.

Roles
1. Decomposers - yellow bacteria, green bottle fly, ant, earthworm, slug, fungus
a. Find poop and soil together in order to decompose poop
2. Soil
a. Work with decomposers to decompose poop
b. Deliver nutrients to plants
Materials
Yellow t-shirts (bottle fly, ant, slug), green t-shirts (earthworm, bacteria, fungi), brown t-shirts
(soil), rope, chocolate (poop), poker chips (life chip), buckets, wooden balls (carbon and
nitrogen)

Debriefing questions
Where did the nutrients in the poop originally come from? (from the natural world, nutrients in
food such as sugars, carbohydrates and fats)
Where do the nutrients in the poop go in this activity?
Where do the decomposers and their nutrients go when they die?
What do the life chips in the plant buckets represent?
Would human poop decompose any differently than the above process?
What normally happens to human poop treated at the sewage treatment plant?
Which of the two processes is a one way dead-end system and which is a continuous recycling
system?

Resources
The Ontario Curriculum (2008). Science: Environmental Science. Grades 11 and 12.
Retrieved from
http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/2009science11_12.pdf

Puk. T (2017). Stop Peeing into the Drinking water. Healing the Ecological self.