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Northern Vermont Elementary Schools Dive into Composting

School cafeterias across Northern Vermont are closing the food cycle as they lead the way in diverting food scraps from landfills through composting.

More than 10 Northeast Kingdom elementary schools that work with Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS), a nonprofit in Newport that works with schools to plant schools gardens, provide nutrition and agriculture education, and teach students about the importance of good food and the environment, have implemented a composting system for their cafeteria’s food waste. Some schools, such as Lowell Graded School and Orleans Elementary School, are housing their own composting systems on-site and use the finished compost in their gardens.

“Composting can be an incredibly powerful teaching tool because there are so many connections to science, nutrient cycling, soil health, and environmental stewardship,” says Maire Folan, farm-to-school program manager for GMFTS, “Students can explore all of these topics in a hands-on way while teaching them important life skills to be responsible citizens in the future, which is an important part of our mission at GMFTS.”

For schools that are still working to implement composting systems, GMFTS offers a wide-range of support such as coordinating and teaching lessons on the subject, working with teachers to integrate composting into their math and science lessons, and helping to organize, construct, and carry-out composting systems.

Aude Girin, an AmeriCorps farm-to-school coordinator with GMFTS, began working with middle school students at Glover Elementary School in January to begin a vermicomposting program – composting using worms. Over the course of a day, she introduced the middle school students to the basics of composting – its benefits, how it works, and why its done, taught them about worm anatomy, and helped them figure out a timeline for their composting.

“By implementing composting into the school culture, students will learn from a young age the importance of composting and its benefit to the community,” says Girin, “While Glover may be starting small by adding a vermicompost bin into the classroom, it is a step in the right direction.”

Heather Burt, the math and science teacher for Glover Elementary School and farm-to-school advocate, will be hosting a worm bin in her classroom. Her seventh grade students will be responsible for feeding them, prepping the bin, calculating the amount of food and water they need, and observing how long it takes the worms to turn food scraps in compost. She will also be taking the opportunity to use the worm bin in math and science lessons.

In addition to all the classroom lesson opportunities, the finished compost will also be used on the seventh grade’s experimental garden bed in the spring.

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Students at Glover Elementary School get their hands dirty learning about vermicomposting