top of page

Master Composter Training Syllabus

The syllabus is subject to change at any time.

All topics should be completed in a timely fashion. Modules need not be discussed in the the same order as they are presented, but may be selected as they suit the needs of the apprentice/mentor. All composting science discussions are useful, even if they are not specifically listed here.

Program Goals


  1. To educate interested individuals in the science, art, materials, methods, and benefits of a variety of high desert home composting techniques.

  2. Complete the apprenticeship with knowledge and skills to become an active, supportive member of the BCEMC in its mission and all of its efforts.

Apprentice Objectives


  1. Demonstrate an understanding of and the ability to apply techniques learned by actively composting at home using one or more methods.

  2. Complete all aspects of the apprentice syllabus.

  3. Complete a project, approved and in collaboration with mentor. (See Appendix.)

  4. Complete any written, oral, or demonstration assignments, quizzes, and final assessment.

Program Resources
  1. Apprentice Program Syllabus

  2. Our website: all of the top menu items.

  3. BCEMC manual, link to be provided to enrollees who are accepted to the program.

  4. Master Composters who are able and willing to be mentors or assist with specific content.

  5. Demonstration Sites.

1. Initial Interview Assessment

Goal: A collaborative discussion about the apprentice's composting experience to determine the apprentice's level of learning.

Objective: Mentor will assess the level of apprentice's experience with home composting, based on the collaborative discussion.

2. Orientation to the BCEMC

Assignment: In our website, read the About Us section in top menu and the BCEMC manual Appendix A.

Goal: Learn about the BCEMC organization.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Review and discuss the mission of the BCEMC and consider means to achieve it.

  • Discuss the requirements of the apprenticeship program and outline a plan to achieve them.

  • Learn about the BCEMC outreach programs and expectations upon completion of apprenticeship. See: Bylaws Article X.

3. Introduction to Composting Science, Part 1

Assignment: Read manual Chapter 1 and Glossary, pg.109 and Indore Method, Appendix H.

Goal: Learn basic composting science.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Discuss the environmental benefits of home composting.

  • Define organic material.

  • Define composting.

  • Specify the components of the composting (decomposition) formula and indicate which is of most concern in the high desert environment.

  • Discuss greens and browns, including the importance of carbon and nitrogen for microorganisms.

4. Introduction to Composting Science, Part 2


  • In our website, top menu, read:

    • Desert Composting

    • Convective Air Flow

    • Odors Management

    • Tumbler Bins

    • Composting Additives

    • Sheet Mulch Composting

    • Homemade Compost Bins

  • Begin consideration of project possibilities and composting method possibilities.


Goal: Continue to learn the particulars of composting science.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Review the basic composting formula and discuss the role of particle size, pH, time.

  • Discuss the use of coarse bulking material and convective air flow.

  • Discuss the cold and hot processes.

  • Discuss the high desert environmental factors which influence composting management.

5. Health and Safety Considerations


Assignment: Read Chapter 5 in manual

Goal: Understand safe practices for home composting.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Discuss pathogenic microorganisms and how to avoid them.

  • Discuss the value of safety practices such as a tetanus booster, hand hygiene, protective attire.


6. Composting Science: On-going Demonstrations:

Assignment: Participate in ongoing composting management at various area teaching sites and other venues.

Goal: Become familiar with both hot and cold composting management and harvesting finished compost.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Develop an understanding of appropriate bins for the desert and how to make modifications, if necessary.

  • Observe and assist in adding organics to a composting setup.

  • Develop an understanding of appropriate moisture level in a composting setup.

  • Identify the differences and similarities in the hot and cold processes.

  • Identify color, texture, and moisture level of finished compost.

  • Observe and practice sifting of finished compost.

  • Explain about recycling (reusing) coarse bulking material.

7. Composting Biology and Microbiology


Assignment: Read manual Chapter 3, and Soil Biology Primer at

Suggested Reading: Teeming with Microbes by Lowenfels & Lewis.

Goal: Develop an understanding of the organisms involved in the decomposition (composting) process - the compost and soil food webs.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Identify macroorganisms which are decomposers.

  • Identify microorganisms which are decomposers.

  • Distinguish between physical and chemical decomposers.


8. Vermicomposting


Assignment: Read manual Chapter 7 and Feedstock and Worm Sources available from the top menu of our website.

Goal: Have a working knowledge of composting with red wiggler worms.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Describe appropriate habitat and nutrition for composting worms, indoors and outdoors.

  • Discuss ways of harvesting worm castings.

  • Discuss how worm digestion influences the end product.

  • Compare the nutritive value of worm castings to compost.


9. Anaerobic Composting

Assignment: Read manual Chapter 6 and Bokashi Composting available in top menu of our website. 

Goal: Be familiar with the science of anaerobic methods of decomposition.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Discuss the science of anaerobic decomposition, including byproducts.

  • Develop an understanding of the Bokashi method of composting and its applications through practice and observation.

  • Explain advantages and disadvantages of anaerobic composting.


10. Roles of Municipal and Commercial Composting Facilities.


Assignment: Read manual Chapter 9

Goal: Be aware of local large scale composting operations and their impact on the community.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Discuss how large scale facilities reduce organics going to landfill.

  • Visit a large scale composting facility in the Albuquerque area.


11. Soil Matters

Assignment: Read manual Chapter 2 and Soil Matters in top menu of our website.

Suggested Reading:, Soil Health.

Goal: Gain an understanding of how climate impacts desert soil characteristics and why amending with compost is relevant.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Name four of the benefits of added organic matter for local soils.

  • Describe the importance of the humus particle for the cation exchange capacity.

  • Be able to discuss how compost and humus assist carbon sequestration in soil.

12. Compost: Completing the Process and Using the Product

Assignment: Read manual Chapter 4 and manual Appendix B.

Goal: Understand the importance and process of curing as the finishing stage of hot composting and comprehend the variety of ways to use both fully cured and unfinished compost.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Identify four important changes which occur during the curing process.

  • Describe both the bag and seed sprout methods of testing finished compost.

  • Indicate several applications of finished compost as a soil amendment.

13. Compost Tea and Extracts


Assignment: Read manual Chapter 8.

Goal: Understand the difference between compost tea and extracts and know the benefits of each for horticultural applications.

Apprentice Objectives:

  • Identify three or more tea making methods.

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the variety of composted materials available to make an extract or tea.

  • Understand the environmental impact of making and/or using compost teas.

14. Troubleshooting

Assignment: Read manual Chapters 10 and 12.

Suggested Reading: The Composting Troubleshooter, 2015 by Jane Gilbert.

Goal: Appreciate a variety of situations which may be problematic and their resolutions.

Objective: Demonstrate an understanding of the problem solving processes by being able to respond

appropriately to sample scenarios for Hot and Cold, Bokashi, and Vermicomposting.

15. Teaching Tips and Other Outreach Opportunities


Assignment: Read manual Chapter 11.

Goal: Appreciate materials and methods of sharing home composting in the community.


  • Name a variety of methods for sharing composting information.

  • Give examples that illustrate auditory, visual, and kinesthetic approaches.

Appendix: Projects

Here are examples of previous student projects. Once you have chosen a project, discuss the particulars with your mentor. Possibilities/suggestions for projects:

  1. Write a brief research paper on any aspect of composting science.

  2. Evaluate our website and then make suggestions.

  3. Prepare an outline for a public class on any composting topic.

  4. Design your own unique composting related project.

  5. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on any aspect of home composting.

  6. Write a brief paper on how compost benefits desert garden soil.

  7. Start a new (to you) composting method, then monitor and document its progress.

bottom of page