Our Composter by Ellen Finley
Our Tubs arrived in June 2006 through a grant written to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). For some of us, excitement was in the air. But we had quite a bit of opposition from the maintenance department; they thought that the novelty of the tubs would wear off and that they would end up with the additional work of maintaining them.
We fooled them!!!
Classroom and cafeteria training began as soon as school started in the fall. Students were excited without really understanding why at first. Kindergarteners learned that they could dry their hands on twelve inches or less of paper towel, while everyone learned that all unconsumed fruit and vegetable matter could go into the tub to make special dirt. Paper towels from mealtime hand-washing would be tossed in to help with the process.
Fourth- and fifth-grade students helped turn the tub in the mornings. They viewed this activity as a treat. Taking and tracking temperatures, testing texture against other soils, and examining water erosion factors became science experiments.
Everybody was on board.
Third-grade students in 4-H programs did experiments to see if the compost really did grow things better. Our compost was very good and came out very well in the tests. These same students grew vegetables that went to State Fair in 2008-09 and won several first-, second-, and third-place ribbons/cash awards from the Oregon Potato Growers Association. 4-H still uses the courtyard area and compost to grow their County/State Fair produce.
We grow pumpkins for kindergarten to use in the Science Curriculum in seed growth. They save some seeds, which they replant for next year’s classes before leaving for summer break.
First grade mixes compost with their potting soil when planting beans and corn for science.
Just this year fourth grade has decided that they need one of the four raised beds for their classroom project. They have decided to try their hand at broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach and maybe Brussel sprouts.
The Earth Tub has been a superb learning tool for our students, teachers and community. We have three in the district: ours, one at another elementary school—who just got theirs up and running again after a two-year interruption–and another at a middle school who had to move theirs because of construction issues this past summer.
Word of mouth has been our most expedient method of passing along the information about what we do. Students take home what they learn, share garden produce, and are living to make a better, greener world for coming generations. I know I should be getting us in the local newspaper but I really don’t like having my picture taken!