From Harford County Public Schools:
“If you were to come to our school and watch during lunchtime, you would see a typical elementary school setting: students eating their lunches, talking about everything from sports to their favorite movies” says Emmorton Elementary Principal, Dr. Peter Carpenter. “But once it’s time to finish lunch, you would see a very different dismissal procedure for our students.”
Emmorton Elementary students have recently been learning how to go green by composting and recycling their trash in the school cafeteria.
It all started last year, when Emmorton fourth graders got in the spirit of going green in a big way. Students from Ms. Kourtney Hamel and Ms. Jennifer Howard’s classes joined together and entered the Disney Planet Challenge and devised a plan to start composting food scraps from the cafeteria. Their project “From Lunch to a Better Planet” went so well, that the students placed first in the state of Maryland!
After seeing potential in a school-wide project, they contacted HCPS Resource Conservation Manager Andrew Cassilly, in hopes of developing a full scale composting program at their school. Since then, Emmorton has partnered with Veteran Composting, a local veteran-owned company focused on turning organic waste into high quality soil, and the school now has a commercial composting program.
“This is an excellent teaching tool for motivating student interest and inquiry into environmental issues,” said Cassilly.
Disney’s Planet Challenge Elementary School program is a free project-based environmentally-focused national competition for third through fifth grade students which allows teachers the unique chance to blend critical thinking skills and environmental principles in a class project which motivates students to take action to better their community. To apply, students must help create and carryout a project with an eco-friendly goal. Teachers then submit a portfolio of the work they have done for judging.
Their program is very similar to the composting program Bel Air High School started last year. Bel Air senior and student leader of the composting program, Tyler Abbott has spoken to the students about composting and the benefits it has on the environment.
“I think it’s great kids are getting interested that young.” said Tyler. “Their program’s so successful that Emmorton Elementary is on track to save more food waste from going into the landfill than Bel Air High!”
Emmorton Elementary also participates in Terracycle, a recycling program that gives the school cash for the items they recycle. After lunch, students separate their trash into specifically marked containers which are collected when full and sent to the Terracycle facility. Terracycle then recycles the containers and makes new items from them.
Since last year, the program has raised over $7,000 for recycling things that they normally would throw in the garbage each day.
“Our kids just seem to not be satisfied with just little changes” says Dr. Carpenter.