by Sarah Dasher
Let me tell you about a girl in kindergarten named Emaan. One day, Emaan’s mom read a garden book to her that mentioned recycling and composting. These are now some of her greatest interests, and Earth Day is her favorite holiday. Her eyes light up when you ask her to put garden scraps in the compost bin, and she is crazy about the idea of composting food scraps. To me, she is a real-life super hero.
Now let me tell you about working in schools. Communicating in schools when you aren’t part of the regular staff is a pretty tough gig. Teachers are usually unavailable during business hours because they are busy wrangling anywhere from twenty to thirty-five students, and the administration is usually unavailable because they are dealing with, well, everything else. You really can’t blame them for not responding to all your emails right away (or ever, as the case may sometimes be). So when Emaan and her mom approached me about starting a composting program, I knew it wouldn’t be the easiest thing we did all year. However, when a cute, smart, and eager five-year-old wants your help diverting waste from her school cafeteria, there is only one answer.
The good news is that everyone else felt that way too, including her teacher and principal, who were both preparing for the dreaded testing coming up and in the middle of general end-of-the-school-year mayhem. In the middle of all that craziness, they said, “Yes, let’s start a composting program a month before the end of school.” These people, as well, are super heroes. I have worked with other teachers and principals who would have put it off until the next year or never done it at all.
So after everyone was on board, planning commenced. Emaan’s super-cool parents cleaned the trash out of the disgusting and abused compost bin, Ted’s Montana Grill donated buckets for us to collect food scraps in, and school staff was very pleased to help guide Emaan, her mom, and I around the cafeteria so that students in their highly organized lunch period rotations could donate scraps to our bucket without gumming up the works.
It looked like a pretty meager first collection, but we could not have been happier than we were just putting a few orange peels and potato skins into the compost bin. Now every week at Garden Club, Emaan stirs the compost, and we make sure we’re putting in equal parts brown and green matter so the compost stays healthy. And I’m not worried at all that the composting might not continue when I’m not at that school next year, because all the major players took part in making it happen. It was the school’s project, not mine, and their enthusiasm makes me pretty confident that they will keep it going.