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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Frankfort High School, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA

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Frankfort High School, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA
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Registered: December 2011
City/Town/Province: Frankfort, KY 40601
Posts: 1
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Compost Encourages Environmental Responsibility at Frankfort High School

Growing up on a farm, I was always surrounded by nature. My mother and father encouraged me to explore outside, play with the dogs, pet the horses, be in the sunshine. Not a day went nor goes by that I do not spend some time outdoors, taking in all that gives us life. However, among this bliss and healthy meditation on nature lies a dark, rapidly advancing and already occurring web of biological disturbances, disturbances which will, if not addressed, leave the Earth as we know it in a foreign state. Earth will survive, but that does not mean that humans will survive on the planet we changed Earth to be. This drives my every day. Within my every nerve, I know that I can make a difference and help keep our planet healthy, beautiful, and conserved for the living and coming generations. Some of the environmental projects that I am dedicated to are lobbying against mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, working with Kentucky Heartwood to help stop logging of the Daniel Boone National Forest, and helping head start a youth advisory board for the Woods and Water Land Trust which helps land owners protect their property from development.
The project that I am most passionate about and feel makes the most immediate difference, however, is being the president of my high school’s Earth Club. This group of dedicated high schoolers is absolutely amazing, and without their passion and ideas I would not be as driven and excited to lead them in making our school more environmentally friendly and being an example for the rest of Franklin County and even Kentucky, as our endeavors are highlighted in our local paper frequently. For example, our high school struck the newspapers as Earth Club members and science classes jabbed the first divots into the perimeter of what would be the first high school garden in Frankfort. It is that very day in April 2011 that was the first day of conducting my Apprentice Ecologist project.
Compost: such a simple word which entails a complex, positive domino effect for the environment. This beautiful practice all began because of Frankfort High’s Life Science teacher’s, Mrs. Shouse, and our local CommonWealth Gardens group’s passion to bring fresher, healthier ingredients into our school’s lunch line. Mrs. Shouse contacted me in March about this quick-moving project she had worked out with CommonWealth Gardens, and she wanted to know if Earth Club would like to be involved. They were going to cooperate to create a garden in our school’s backyard for the cafeteria to buy from the Foods class, therefore creating resources for the class and healthier, cheaper, locally grown food for students. Without dissertation for pages and pages about the benefits of a garden, especially in a school system, in respects to fossil fuel economy, pesticide ingestion, etc., I will discuss the benefits of my project’s part in the school garden. “How about Earth Club running a compost system for the garden?” I suggested. Her face lit up. Here began the plans of a compost system that would set an example for surrounding area schools, provide natural fertilizer for our new garden, significantly reduce our school’s cafeteria and yard clipping waste, and educate the students on what this practice is, how it is beneficial, and ways to implement it in their own homes.
After presenting the idea to my Earth Club, they were ecstatic that we were going to be galvanizing a project that would positively impact our school in such a large way. The following week, I invited the CommonWealth Gardens Vice President, Mr. Rogers, to an Earth Club meeting to teach all of us how to compost – what ratios of “brown” and “green” we needed, what temperature the core should be, how we were to manage it weekly, etc. Mr. Rogers explained that CommonWealth Gardens agreed to donate the wood to build the compost station. It was to be three-sided and the fourth side was left open to place the compost materials and for mixing. Considering our compost was quite open to the environment, the Earth Club decided with Mr. Rogers that Frankfort High would not compost meat (in consideration to the neighbors due to odor and animals getting the meat out of the compost). We did become educated on what we were to compost, and came up with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for the students. This is where the project got tricky: How were we to educate and convince the students enough to take the time to separate their trays into compost and landfill waste?
What students are now understanding more deeply, since the compost system has been in for awhile, is that it is cutting our school’s cafeteria waste down significantly. Earth Club was fueled by this fact, because we researched the bad effects of landfills and were happy to know that Frankfort High would be dumping less waste into that unhealthy system. Some examples include that landfills produce methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, and cause pollution, toxins, and carcinogens to seep into groundwater and poison waterways, therefore threatening biodiversity and healthy ecological systems, not to mention the health of humans who drink that water. One resource in particular, the Sierra Club’s video on composting, spoke to us; it stated that Americans accumulate about 200 million pounds of trash each day, and that fifteen percent of that is yard and kitchen waste! We were happy to relay this information to our peers, as we knew that our school would be a small piece to reducing the practice of “land filling.”
Speaking again with Mrs. Shouse, she and I decided to work with Mrs. Owens of Bluegrass Pride to host a “Waste Free Lunch Day” at Frankfort High School in April. Mrs. Shouse and I worked with Mrs. Owens to create an outline for the special day, and it was to be the day that the garden was tilled and the composting began. Mrs. Shouse and I met multiple times to make a schedule and swap presentation ideas, and we decided that the best way was to have the whole school have the same lunch (we have a small population) and have she and the Earth Club give mini, encouraging lectures on why we were implementing a garden and why we were starting composting. On Waste Free Lunch Day, Earth Club gave a great presentation to the students and received welcoming, curious emotions from them. We explained that it would take some time getting used to, but Earth Club members would be there at the end of lunchtime every day to help them sort out their trays. We created easy-to-follow, illustrated posters on what to and not compost placed above the bins. Students loved that they were going to get healthier, better tasting food from the garden, and were therefore eager to help make the fertilizer and soil for that garden.
Last school year from April to June, Earth Club members paired up to cover the compost station for every lunch. I created a calendar and system for directing and collecting the compost. Each member signed up for a day, two members for every day. Two trash cans were at the tray cleaning station, one now labeled “Landfill&#61516;” and “Compost&#61514;.” (However, we found that after the first week we were not getting enough compost to fill an entire trash can, and were therefore wasting a trash bag. I bought a smaller pan that is labeled and placed at the tray cleaning station, which works fantastically now and there is no garbage bag waste!) Above the compost bin are two easy-to-follow, illustrated posters on what to and not compost. It was so encouraging and still is to see students stop before they throw something in the trash, refer to the posters, and then proceed to either throw it away or place it in the compost bin. At the end of each lunch day, the member “on duty” takes the lunch waste, students’ food and the kitchen’s clippings, to the compost area. We take turns each week on mixing the compost.
It is now a new school year, and after education and practice and guiding, Frankfort High students no longer need Earth Club members to stand and “babysit” the compost station. Students now know what to and not to compost, a skill that three students have come up to me and said, “Hey! I started composting at my house, now!” Some students that live in the area convinced their parents to let them compost because they can just walk the waste down to the school’s compost! It is a great system, and the garden has already benefited from some of the ready compost.
It is still a system that Earth Club is working to perfect, but it is definitely making an impact on our student’s environmental consciousness, waste reduction, and responsibility as citizens of this planet. I am overjoyed to know that this idea sprouted from one person and has become the efforts of not only the Earth Club, but also our students and faculty who make the conscious effort to put that orange peel or apple core in the compost bin. As an extension of educating our school, the Earth Club has participated in two environmental festivals, hosting a workshop and presentation called “How to Green Your School.” As an example, the workshop focuses on how Earth Club “greens” Frankfort High School by projects such as recycling, composting, and having a school garden. We discuss with other students which authority to contact and go through to implement projects, provide a support network for ideas and answering questions, and get other Kentucky students’ from minds flowing on how they can make their school a better establishment for the planet.
As a senior, knowing that I have this experience and accomplishment in working with others to make a positive, environmental difference, I am confident that I will impact whichever college campus I reside at, whichever workplace(s) I end up in, and whatever residential community in which I will eventually settle in a way that benefits our planet. This is what I was meant to do – help protect our environment in a positive, community-building way. With my college degree(s), I hope to work with non-profit environmental organizations abroad on sustainability, possibly focusing on agriculture. Conducting this project has gotten me more pumped and sure that I can make a difference in that field. This grassroots form of environmentalism encourages and fulfills me, and I know that I am making and will continue to make a positive difference on and for this planet.
Date: December 29, 2011 Views: 8608 File size: 16.2kb, 1806.5kb : 2732 x 3240
Hours Volunteered: 20
Volunteers: 14
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 12 to 18
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Registered: December 2011
City/Town/Province: Sunny Isles Beach
Posts: 7
December 30, 2011 12:20pm

This is a great project!
My school tried this composting idea before, but it wasn't very successful. Your essay inspires me to try again Smile

My favorite part is this: Earth will survive, but that does not mean that humans will survive on the planet we changed Earth to be.

Nice sentence :D

-Hugs from Miami,