This spring, I was helping some third grade students plant corn in our three sisters garden. One group of girls had finished planting their seeds ahead of the others, so I sent them off to get some compost to incorporate into the garden.
Five minutes later, the girls returned with cups full of onion peels, grass clippings, and other kitchen scraps. My a-ha moment came when the girls were ready to dump the contents on top of their corn seeds. The other teacher and I burst into laughter. The girls, having just come from the kitchen area, had run to our compost bin and picked up what they had composted twenty minutes earlier, with no connection between a compost pile, and finished compost for the garden. We found the finished compost pile together, had an excellent teachable moment, and all was well with the Three Sisters - but I learned how much work is still to be done in connecting kids with the concept of compost, and remembered what a great educational tool it can be.
Last spring, Green and Healthy Schools Wisconsin hosted a compost training for educators in conjunction with UW Extension and Community GroundWorks. All three organizations are excellent resources for schools looking to begin, expand, or troubleshoot composting initiatives.
Implementing a composting program can assist schools aspiring to Green and Healthy School (GHS) certification. Composting helps school earn points in the GHS Recycling and Waste category, and can also support efforts in other focus areas, including Health and Wellness, Community Involvement, Environmental & Sustainability Education, and School Site.
Not only can composting help your school become Green & Healthy, it can bolster classroom learning through lessons on decomposition, waste reduction, soil nutrients, and much more.
On top of all this, composting helps the school garden come full circle, as old plants are "recycled" to become the nutrients that new plants need. It reduces or eliminates the need for purchased garden inputs, and can even be used as a fundraiser if compost is bagged and sold by students.
This newsletter features an inspiring story from one successful school compost program, as well as resources for implementing and managing a compost system, and using the compost as classroom learning tool for almost any subject. Enjoy!