Composting effort expands at MEMS

MANCHESTER - Going to school is becoming more sustainable, one lunch period at a time. Manchester Elementary Middle School has had on site composting since 2011.

Now, however, school has gone to the next level and really taken over the program, said Barbara Smith, a fifth grade teacher at MEMS.

Originally, the compost was taken to Someday Farms for about three years and they helped the school building their own composting bins when the time came. In the fall of 2012, the seventh and eight grade soccer teams built the bins that are now used to compost the leftover food, she said. "We have less waste in the landfill and this great soil to work with," she said.

Students from each grade level are responsible for taking care of the compost. Duncan Chamberlain, a fifth grader, has had this responsibility for a few months, he said.

"I've been the composter for a really long time," he said. "We bring the compost out of the classroom, tell people what to put in it [the buckets in the lunch room], weigh it, put it out back, wash the buckets and put newspaper in them [in the buckets to help the compost break down]."

The fifth grade also collects data about the temperature of the inner core of the compost.

Chamberlain said when the temperature is very high, or the thermometer feels hot to the touch, the compost is breaking down.

According to the data they have collected, in November, the bin MEMS started in September was finished, with two cubic yards of compost collected, four cubic yards so far this school year. The temperature of the compost has to be monitored, to make sure the new soil is not getting to dry and the process is working, Smith said.

Once the compost is finished, it will be used in the community garden. Last year, the students planted pop corn and popped it once it was dried in November, Smith said. Anna Nicholson, MEMS fifth grade teacher said having the community garden gives the students the ability to see the composting project all the way through.

"They have to sift the compost before we can use it in the garden," she said.

The garden is not the only place the compost is used. Some of the teachers, Nicholson said, have used it in their biology classes, looking at the compost under a microscope to learn about microorganisms. MEMS students also learn about sustainability and the environment by weighing the food waste each time the compost is collected.

Smith said once the school started composting, there was an immediate change in how much waste was produced at lunch time. Before composting, an average lunch would produce four bags of trash. Now, MEMS sees about half a bag of trash at lunch time.

"We've also focused more on recycling, and we've seen more initiative," Nicholson said.

Chamberlain said it is important to compost because it makes the school and also the community more environmentally friendly.

"The landfills are overflowing," he said. "We want to reduce our waste."


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