Take It Home
Small-scale composting is much easier than many people imagine. If you're a gardener, the end product is pure gold. If you don't garden, use the compost on indoor plants or give it to a friend or neighbor who gardens.
Quick Guide to Composting
Yard trimmings and food residuals make up 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream. By composting, you significantly reduce the amount of waste that goes to the landfill, and you also create the single most important thing you can give your soil. Your students should be totally wise to the benefits of healthy soil by now. Have them write an illustrated guidebook to composting that they can take home and share with their parents and other adults they know. Here are the basics to include:
Write an introduction about what composting is and why it is important.
The first step in composting is buying or building a bin. You can build one out of wood and chicken wire or cement blocks stacked on their sides so the holes are exposed. It's essentially just a big box with no top or bottom.
Fill your bin with a balance of the following materials: green stuff (grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, plants) and brown stuff (fall leaves, dead plants, old flowers, straw, hay, cardboard, sawdust).
You can also add (in moderation) eggshells, paper, paper towels, hair, and even old cotton clothing.
To jump-start the process, you can sprinkle garden soil in between layers to introduce the soil organisms that will digest your scraps.
Turn the pile regularly with a pitchfork to aerate the pile, which speeds the process. It also keeps the process happening aerobically, which should be odorless.
Keep the pile damp but not wet. Food scraps might keep the pile damp enough, but it depends on the climate. You may need to spray it here and there.
Never compost the following items: meat scraps, bones, fish, plastic or synthetic fibers, oil or fat, feces, weeds that have gone to seed, diseased plants, glossy magazines, or coal ash.
Harvest the compost from the bottom of the pile. Use it on your gardens or give it to a friend or neighbor who gardens. They'll love you for it!
Generally, if you bury your scraps in the center of the pile instead of just throwing them on top, you can prevent much of the odor, which draws bugs and animals. Make sure the bin is snug to the ground or add chicken wire around the bottom. If need be, use natural repellants like predator urine or peppermint extract.
Are there any other tips that you can add to your guidebooks? Not only is this book helpful for educating others, it would make a great gift for any beginning gardeners you know.
Pumpkins to Pigs
How many pumpkins do you think get thrown out after Halloween? Enough to make a hungry pig cry! Find a local farmer who could use all the past-prime pumpkins as a delicious gourmet feast for his livestock. Work with your class to make collecting the pumpkins as easy as possible.