Ten years ago, Second Grade teacher Ronnie Loving took a bold move and began a small composting program in her classroom. As neither of us had ever done this before, we decided we would model a “growth mindset” and figure it out as we go. A clear plastic tub and a shipment of worms later, before you knew it Second Graders had the thrill of “feeding” their compost worms the leftover bits of organic waste from snack. This first attempt proved to a “successful failure,” however, as we arrived one day to find the bin had exploded and there were hundreds of dead and drying worms all over the classroom floor.
A few years ago, Tati Wisniewski (who was teaching Nursery at the time) conducted a bit more research and managed to launch a successful “vermicompost” (worm) program. What was really special was that once her Nursery students became compost “experts,” they teamed up with their Second Grade Buddies and taught them everything they had learned. What a treat it was for the youngest students in the school to assume the role of teacher and to share what they had learned with their older peers – and Ms. Loving – from “The Big School!”
Each year the program has grown, and this year all classrooms from Nursery through Fifth Grade feed the organic remains from snack and lunch to their class worms. Every year on Earth Day, the worm castings are collected and are returned to the Earth in our school gardens or are used to feed seedlings in a variety of class projects.
As part of our Nature Initiative last year, the Community Compost Company, which began servicing Hoboken this spring, was invited to come in and share an educational assembly with our students. Voula Papadopoulous shared the benefits and challenges of composting in an urban area, and reported being super-impressed with how much our students already knew. Our challenge as a school was to find a sustainable way to continue our composting program, as the amount of organic waste we produce is much more than our class worms can process.
Our students and teachers were so excited about composting that we asked the Community Compost Company to partner with us and we now have instituted the first school-wide composting program in Hoboken for all organic waste! Each classroom has a bin, and these bins are emptied into a central outdoor location once each week for pick up by Community Compost Company, which provides the compost to farms. Not only will students turn their waste into valuable compost, but Community Compost has reported that by raising an awareness of the amount of food that regularly goes to waste, composting actually helps reduce food waste.
We are asking our families to join us in this important sustainability effort by signing up for residential composting. All of Hoboken is currently enjoying this service, and parts of Jersey City will be working with the Community Compost Company soon. Parents will have an opportunity to sign up for residential composting at Back to School Night. Just look for Community Compost Company’s table and join this important eco-initiative today!
Our goal is to get 100 All Saints families participating in this wonderful sustainability effort.