In 2019-20, Gail Bryn-Jones’ 4th-5th-grade class at Salt Spring Elementary determined that each of the eight K-5 classes at their school generates about one garbage can of used paper towels from pre-meal and other classroom handwashing at their school. Also, they realized that lots of food waste was probably getting thrown away instead of composted. Their vision was to generate healthy soil from these and other ingredients, instead of throwing it all away.
First, they consulted with the Victoria Compost Education Centre (https://compost.bc.ca/), who supplied them with a rat-proof design for a three-section compost bin constructed with recycled wooden pallets. These bins were then built by parent volunteers as part of the school gardens program. Their teacher also asked the Compost Education Centre to come share worm bin and other compost information with the classes at Salt Spring Elementary.
Students in Ms. Bryn-Jones’ class now collect the bins of paper towels from all the classes each week. With Covid precautions, classes have decided to compost their food waste in their in-class worm bins instead of having it collected by the other class. So, a LSF grant paid for extra Nitrogen-rich and compostable supplements and materials for creating soil cake in the bins using the paper towels, plus chicken manure, blood meal, other manures, and straw, autumn leaves, and garden debris.
The LSF grant also paid for compost thermometers and equipment to measure temperatures, pH, and moisture so that the compost could be managed to generate great veggie-growing soil. Students also learned about lasagna gardening, hugel kultur, green manures, mulching, and more as part of their garden club activities.
Reflection & Celebration
The active composting program is a wonderful program for students at SSE. It’s fun to create the layers, jump on them, and have a sense of ownership and empowerment around reducing waste and generating something positive: soil, for their school gardens.
We’ve realized that the compost bins need more management and a better schedule to be maintained though, so we will need to make a better plan for 2021 that incorporates parent turning of the compost bins, regular monitoring of moisture, and maybe replacement of the rat-proof lids so that they’re lighter-weight and pervious to rain to keep the compost wet.