How to Have a Successful School Composting Program
School gardens that are specifically interested in starting or improving a composting program will not only benefit from reviewing the lesson plans and other resources available from the Maine Department of Environmental Protections Student and Educator Information website but more importantly will benefit from the thought process and planning that their information and staff can provide.
There are many benefits to starting your own compost pile and one of the most compelling reasons involves the eye opening amount of compostable materials that end-up in our landfills each year. In Maine, for example, up to 43% of our waste stream is comprised of organic materials that could be composted, saving valuable landfill space and reducing negative environmental impacts of disposal.
Aside from this global value, composting offers immediate benefits to your school:
- The amount (and weight) of trash your school produces will be reduced.
- Nutrients from composted food scraps are recycled back into your soils.
- Composting can save money and turn unwanted materials into a useful product.
- Composting offers numerous educational opportunities to promote sustainable environmental practices to your students.
- Student and community awareness is awakened regarding recycling and waste reduction.
- School pride and environmental stewardship is enhanced through positive contributions of conservation efforts.
To help you get started the MDEP has produced a booklet titled 10 Steps: Starting a Successful School Composting Operation.
Here is an outline of the 10 steps which are each expanded in this informative booklet:
- Is composting right for your school? Gauge interest and develop a Composting Team.
- Contact Mark King at the DEP’s Sustainability Division for information and assistance: Phone: 207-592-0455 Email: Mark.email@example.com
- Hold the first team meeting and invite DEP to attend.
- Conduct a “Characterization Study” of discarded food scraps.
- Choose an appropriate food scrap collection system.
- Design and build a composting system.
- Develop student based curriculum and compost activities.
- Initiate compost operations and evaluate and adjust the process.
- Collect and report data from composting operations.
- Use soil products and share success with the community!
The State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection has also created environmental education curricula for Maine students in middle and high school to enhance their education about environmental stewardship and career opportunities in the environmental regulatory field in Maine including lesson plans, curricula and resources.
The Lesson plans cover fourteen different topics including nine middle school and five high school level lessons.
- Each lesson is designed to address a given Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS).
- Each topic contains a classroom slide presentation and a lesson plan with student activity included.
- If you have questions regarding the lesson plans, please contact David Madore by calling (207) 287-5842.
Composting Curricula and Teacher Resources include:
- “Do the Rot Thing, A Teacher’s Guide to Compost Activities”—Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District
- “Composting Education for Schools and Communities”—Cornell Waste Management Institute
- “Backyard Magic, The Composting Handbook, Be Eco Friendly”—New Brunswick
- “Agriculture in the Classroom”—Cornell University, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, the NYS Education Department, and the New York Farm Bureau, NY AITC
- “Composting in Schools”—Cornell Composting
For more information:
Contact Mark King, Organics Management Specialist, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Materials Management, by calling 207-592-0455 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.