Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Compost Bins: Building A Bay-Friendly Teaching Tool at Ocean View Elementary!

With the support of StopWaste.Org’s 4Rs Student Action Project Program, which rolled out this 2010-2011 school year, 5th graders throughout Alameda County are taking action to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot at school. Teachers are using the theme, “The 4Rs & My Foodshed” to address the role of food scraps in our waste stream, the consequences of sending organics to the landfill and the importance of closing the food production loop by composting. The curriculum follows CA State Standards to teach 5th graders about
discard management and conserving natural resources.

Ms. Theriault’s 5th grade class at Ocean View Elementary in Albany recently took part in this 4Rs & My Foodshed Student Action Project. After conducting a waste audit in their first lesson, which involved resorting bags of landfill waste from school lunch, the students found a great deal of organic materials and recyclables that could have been diverted from the landfill. Though the school is already sorting organic waste at lunchtime, separating food scraps and compostable materials from recyclable and non-recyclable materials, the students in Ms. Theriault’s class felt that they could do more. An inactive Biostack compost bin, acquired by a teacher years ago through a grant, was sitting unused and out of sight from the students. The 5th graders were enthusiastic about reviving the compost bin—getting it in working condition and accessible to the student body. After collecting and recording data about food scraps at their individual homes, Ms. Theriault’s 5th graders brought in buckets of fruit and vegetable scraps and, with some guidance, collectively reconstructed the compost bin in an outdoor snack area near the playground and planting beds.

Now, only two weeks later, the 5th graders are taking their project even further by educating the school about the new compost bin. The 5th graders visited 16 classes to present educational composting posters that they had made, educating other students about how the new compost bin is different from the green bins at lunch and what can and can’t be put in it. The 5th graders in Ms. Theriault’s class have shown great initiative in educating the rest of their schoolmates about composting at school, and modeling how their schoolyard  can be a teaching tool to learn on how to be  more Bay-Friendly!

-Maricelle Cardenas and Grant Chen are Classroom Sustainability Associates with StopWaste.Org’s 4Rs Student Action Project Program; for more information about how to get your school involved in this project, visit the SCHOOLS website at StopWaste.Org, or contact Angelina Vergara, at

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