When it comes to Valentine’s Day bragging rights, the classroom with a worm bin takes the cake. A container in which to compost food scraps is home to hundreds of red wigglers, each having five pairs of hearts, and that is a lot of love! These little worms devour their bedding of dampened, shredded paper and unwanted food. In a few months both bedding and food will become unrecognizable and it will be time to harvest those castings. Together with the students who lovingly care for their classroom residents, vermicomposting information has the makings of a great PA announcement. “Roses are red, violets are blue, we’ve got five pairs of hearts beating for you!” Whether children create a skit, poem, song or just state the facts, a clever morning announcement can begin your Valentine’s Day celebrations.
For the love of composting, earthworms in a backyard composter and red wigglers in a worm bin will echo the joys of nutrients in the soil.
If you have a worm bin and the castings (worm poo) are ready to harvest, make it a class activity by separating the castings from the worms and making new bedding. Composting offers unique ideas such as displaying your decorated composters, sprinkling the castings on school plants, or saving castings for your nature or rooftop garden.
For the love of creativity, home-made cards are always a treasure to receive. They also make good use of scrap paper. For those who wish to purchase cards, remember the love of trees and buy cards with the FSC logo or made from post-consumer recycled paper. Note that to recycle effectively, we put our used paper into the blue box and also purchase products with recycled content. While nature does not have a lot to offer in colder climates in the way of Valentine’s Day decorations, your 3Rs imagination can be put to the test. Cut out a chain of hearts from newspapers to stretch across a wall that can be recycled or shredded and dampened later as bedding in a worm bin. For crafts that require glue, make a paste of flour and water. If red wool or ribbon is used to hang posters, it can be reused when the pictures are removed. Decorate a worm bin or the school’s outdoor composter with paper valentine messages from a worm’s point of view. Have your class design a bulletin board from used wine corks to display seasonal works of art.
For the love of parties, promote your event as waste-free. Place recycling boxes and a container to collect food scraps in view and hide any garbage cans. Offer washable plates, cutlery and cloth napkins. If you are low on staffroom supplies, ask each child to lug-a-mug or bring their own plate. Indeed kids will not forget which glass is theirs. If you use paper napkins, be sure to compost them. Avoid plastic straws, cutlery and balloons as they quickly lose their appeal sitting in the landfill or being incinerated. It is easy and special to host events with style. At the end of the day, turn off the lights and close your window blinds to conserve energy.
For the love of food, there is often a parent who donates a cake decorated with hearts or a batch of cookies for a classroom party. If you are not so fortunate to be a recipient of such goodies, perhaps introduce baking, a very useful life skill. Be sure to purchase fair trade and organic ingredients whenever possible.
For the love of flowers, discuss designing a schoolyard nature garden to attract butterflies. Investigate what grants are available for environmental school projects related to seed planting. For a field trip, visit a local botanical garden.
If it takes over 25 years to modify society’s thinking, then we are well on our way. Earth Day was born in 1970. Municipal recycling along with 3Rs and composting education began in the 1980s. The students of those times are now adults interested in a green future. Today there are more environmental graduate programs such as soil and water restoration, energy efficiency, and product stewardship than ever before. I am optimistic that just about every possible vocation one can imagine will require men and women with a green vision and resource management skills. Inspire your students; be a part of their green foundation. Give them the opportunity to consider the planet in all they encounter in life.
Be my Valentine Mother Earth. You are the only planet with chocolate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Larraine Roulston authors illustrated children’s adventure books that combine composting facts with literature. Each book has resources and ideas for teachers. Visit castlecompost.com.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2013 issue.