Wednesday, January 09, 2008
About 70 sixth graders from Mesa Union School in Somis recently received a up-close environmental lesson on how green waste is recycled in Ventura County. The students, from two science classes at the school, visited the Agromin green waste recycling facility in Oxnard as part of their school's year-long "Garbage to Gardens" project.
The students watched as green waste (leaves, tree limbs, wood, grass clippings) that had been collected throughout Ventura County was dropped off at the site. From there, Agromin employees pick out paper, plastics, metals and other debris. "The kids were surprised about how much trash was thrown away with the green waste," says Michele Waggoner, a teacher and Mesa Union School who is coordinating the "Garbage to Gardens" project. "The students thought it was wrong that people didn't pay attention to what they are putting in their green recycling bins."
Waggoner said her students were also surprised about how many steps it takes to make green waste into finished compost. After the green waste is cleaned of unwanted materials, it is chopped and then laid out into large rows where its temperature increases to about 140 degrees. The level of heat kills most weeds and disease-causing organisms. The piles are turned and watered regularly. Eventually, the green waste turns into dark, rich compost and then made into various soil products.
"The ultimate goal of the project is to teach students how to reduce their environmental impact," says Waggoner. Agromin will provide bags of finished compost to add to school gardens and soil amendments when students plant flower bulbs and vegetable seeds. Students will also make their own compost and send samples to Agromin to test for nitrogen and carbon levels.
The field trip and student studies have already made an impact. "Students try to recycle everything now," says Waggoner. "Students have been collecting dead leaves around campus and the custodians are saving grass clippings. Starbucks is donating used coffee grounds for our composting pile. The project makes them feel connected to the school environment and that they are making a difference."
The "Garbage to Gardens" project is funded by a grant from Lowe's Toolbox for Education.