OSWEGO – Small groups of students have aimed to create a continuum of composting throughout the Oswego City School District.
Fitzhugh Park Elementary School fifth grade teacher Judith Osetek and Roger Sprague, a now retired OCSD teacher turned volunteer, began a vermicomposting program in their respective classrooms during the 2017-18 school year.
After one successful compost bin in each classroom, the pair then applied for, and was successful at obtaining, a grant to expand the program to include their entire schools.
Through the grant, Sprague said “green teams” of students will develop and implement a recycling program, lead the vermicomposting effort at their schools and use their experience to teach younger students about the process.
“What we’re looking for, ultimately, is to reduce our carbon foot print and open it up district-wide,” he said.
Sprague, who helps KPS fifth graders in Kelly Moxley’s class, said students have already learned to save green food waste from the school cafeteria and bring it to the classroom to put in the vermicomposting bin as needed.
Reducing waste to create fertile composting for school gardens is another program goal. KPS fifth grader Maddox Mazzoli said with vermicomposting, worms eat the green foods, paper product and coffee ground waste, among other items, then digest it. When the worms defecate, the waste goes into the soil, which becomes enriched with nutrients.
“That will make plants big and strong!” he said.
Classmate Sandy Attia said what she likes most about the program is knowing how it reduces the amount of garbage that is sent to a landfill and it “helps the environment.”
Osetek said the program goes beyond hands-on fun, as she has tied it to the curriculum with an organic gardening research project.
Her class recently finished reading “Esperanza Rising,” a story about a girl and her mom who fled to a camp for Mexican farm workers.
Each chapter in the book includes a fruit, vegetable or nut so Osetek and her students have begun to grow related, in-class potted produce and herbs: carrots, beans, sweet peppers, parsley, peppermint, lettuce, tomato, radish, onion, squash and basil.
All vermicomposting has been utilized for those plants, as well as with a small, brown and dying rose bush that is now a healthy green color.
After the items are harvested, her fifth-graders will enjoy the fruits- and vegetables- of their labor with a soup and salad meal.
Osetek said interested students recently applied to be the FPS green team and both FPS and KPS will continue to work out details.
She said she hopes all involved students understand how they interact with the environment affects their future.
Sprague said the idea also is to grow students as leaders and have them carry the program into middle school.