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Composting in the Classroom

Posted on August 05, 2012 by Sarah
"aw shucks - corn on the cob for dinner" photo by: sean dreilinger

“aw shucks – corn on the cob for dinner” photo by: sean dreilinger

For my group’s presentation in Holistic Education we discussed “Integrating a Food Culture in the Classroom”. The groups for the class were formed by sharing in a circle our interests followed by a mingling period. At first I thought it lacked too much structure as many of us couldn’t commit to one idea. In the end I ended up with 2 other like minded ladies. Our interests and work ethic matched well and our ideas flowed harmoniously. We broke our 90 minutes into 2 main activities. We introduced our project through a visualization asking everyone to close their eyes and imagine a basket of lemons (a descriptive script was read aloud to assist in the visualization). After our introduction we moved into our first activity what I’ve been calling “World Cafe” where the class is broken into small groups (in our case by naming Ontario fruits in season) and one student is appointed in each group as the facilitataor. The facilitators are the leaders and stay at each given ‘cafe’ while the rest of the groups rotate at a given time. Evidently our group were the facilitators for each of our stations. We also had one unguided station that had resources, herbs, and a brainstorm board addressing how to overcome barriers of our topic. The second activity was a whole group circle sharing of a food memory. We laughed and connected as various stories were told  by people regarding food.

My café specifically addressed introducing and integrating vermiculture (or composting with worms) in the classroom. In 10 minutes we created a worm bin as a group and I discussed how to care, maintain and learn with the worms.

"new reactor level" photo by: blurdom

“new reactor level” photo by: blurdom

I also brought in my worm bin to demonstrate how it looks, how easy it is and how it DOES NOT SMELL.  All my peers were amazed at how it smelt earthy but there was no odour. Odour is a sign that your worm bin is out of balance but it won’t take long before everyone learns the right balance of air, moisture and food. Worm composting helps foster important conversations about our consumption and food waste habits, food production, life cycles, food security and many others. There are many Ontario Curriculum connections that can be made in Science and in Health. Not to mention it’s a great experiment of trial and error until you have your own balanced ecosystem. Depending on age level, space and interest, there are a variety of ways you can integrate a worm bin. Primary students may need more guidance as you introduce a class compost, but Junior and Senior students will have no problem taking on this responsibility. You may have 4 smaller bins per group that allows for greater involvement. It’s also a great project to get gifted students or early finishers started on, let them figure out how to make it! From my experience this is a project that students are very interested in at all levels! It is a great way to begin conversations about learning gardens at schools or the next step if your school already has a garden. The soil your worms will make is extremely rich and you will certainly notice a difference in the quality of your plant life.

"New worm bins (2 of 7)" photo by: Tim Musson

“New worm bins (2 of 7)” photo by: Tim Musson

Vermi-composting is educational, responsible, interesting and FUN! There is tons of information online but I’ve attached my own Composting in the Classroom Brochure or check out Shedd Aquarium’s 10 page How-to Guide for the Novice Vermiculturalist (written in fun student friendly language — an essential resource in the class).

 

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