Sixth Grader Excited about Composting, Gardening, and Recycling at School

Berwyn Heights Elementary has been certified as a green school by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE). One student member of the school’s environmental club wrote about how Berwyn Heights Elementary runs a successful composting and gardening program.

Hi, I’m Zada and I’m in 6th grade at Berwyn Heights Elementary School in Prince George’s County. I’m a member of the school’s environmental club for the second year now. In the environmental club we do many activities. Some things we do are composting, recycling, and trying to be as green as possible!

Composting was the main thing we did. We would compost every week last year. This year we have buckets for compost in the lunchroom and outside classrooms. Every day some sixth graders, including me, collect the buckets from the cafeteria and classrooms and empty the compost. It is later dumped into a larger compost bin that is located outside of our school. In the compost we put in greens and browns. Greens are things like apple cores, banana peels, orange peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and salad without dressing, cheese or meat. Browns are things like leaves, grass clippings, and hay. Meat, cheese, dressing, and large sticks and twigs cannot be composted. The ratio is every bucket of greens needs three buckets of browns.

When we began composting last year, we only collected food scraps from breakfast. It took us a long time to fill our large compost bin outside. When we finally filled it, we mixed it up really well and then let it “cook.” While it “cooked” (which was really just sitting there breaking down), we took the temperature of it a few times a week. When it was really breaking down the temperatures got as high as 130 degrees! Once during the cooking process, we pulled everything out, mixed it again and then put it back in the bin.

This year when we returned to school the bin had dropped down significantly in size. We learned that that was due to the browns and greens breaking down. Now it was time to sift the compost. We used what looked like a large screen. The students in the environmental club had to take everything out of the compost bin. Using wheelbarrows, we transferred the compost from the bins to the screen. We shook the screen with the compost in it and anything that fell through was ready to be used in our fall garden! Anything that didn’t fall through wasn’t ready and we put back in the compost bin into the compost to decompose more.

As I mentioned, we also garden here at Berwyn Heights Elementary School. Each year, the BHES PTA Green Team members come to the school and help students plant seeds in our raised bed garden. Some of the things we plant are lettuce, carrots, radishes, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and more. It’s pretty cool. We get to watch them grow over the course of several weeks. We water our crops and make sure they’re not becoming infected by bugs. Then we harvest our crops and get to eat them during lunch!

Recycling is important at our school too. Every classroom has a recycling bin in it. Then every week the students in the environmental club go around the school and collect the recycling. We then used some of the recycling to make bird feeders. Our teacher, Ms. Ottaiano provided us with bird food, and we were able to take our feeders home and watch the birds eat.

Our school’s environmental club also went to the MAEOE event at Sandy Point State Park last June where we were recognized for becoming recertified as a green school for the second time! We got a flag to show that we are a green school. The teachers also had a big part to do with the environmental club such as, Ms. Ottaiano, Ms. Lewandowski, Mrs. Bastio, and many more.

Read more about the Maryland Green Schools Award Program on the MAEOE website.

Read more about the Berwyn Heights Elementary School Gardens here and here.

Read about PGCPS’s recycling program here.

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