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Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Last month, we got kids thinking about where their trash ends up with Trash Talk and Loop Scoops. But let’s start at the beginning. Where does our food come from? How many places does the slice of cheese on our burger see before it ends up on our plate?

At Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we teach a program for school groups called, “It’s Easy Being Green.” We cover topics like proper recycling, energy efficiency, and sustainable food choices. The food activity splits kids into groups; each group is responsible for piecing together the life cycle of one ingredient on a burger. They’re given cards that each represent one phase in, for instance, the journey of a slice of cheese. Take a look:

The journey starts here at “Sunset Farm”. But why are we starting on a corn field if we’re trying to get to a slice of cheese? 

To feed the cows! Unfortunately, most cows in the US are fed corn rather than the tasty grass that their stomachs were built to digest. The cow’s milk then has to be transported to the cheese factory. That’s two big truck rides so far for one slice of cheese!

The cheese then gets stored in a large warehouse with other grocery goods. 

A truck picks up the cheese from the warehouse and takes it to the grocery store where it’s stocked on shelves and finally awaits your purchase.

Your cheeseburger can now be assembled and enjoyed! And now what? What about the packaging your cheese slice came wrapped up in? What about all your other food scraps? Where do they end up? 

Most of the time, they end up in a landfill.

Now, here’s the challenge: After students have pieced together the journey of their cheese (there are twenty cards or steps for the cheese alone!) they have to figure out how to remove pieces of the production-distribution-consumption-waste system to make the whole thing more sustainable. How can we get this slice of cheese to travel less? This activity can lead to great discussions on Farmer’s Markets, local food, and composting.

Want to try this activity with your class? Email GoGreen[at]Brooklynkids.org for a PDF version of the full set of Hamburger life cycle cards!

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A while ago, we mentioned the amazing resources out there from the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED). In addition to resources on teaching about types of energy and its sources, they also have resources for teaching about trash.

One page from the flip book; the following page explains paper that cannot be recycled

The Trash FlipBook is a resource designed for K-4 teachers that comprehensively explains waste and ways to reduce it. It starts with what trash it and where it goes (apparently, in the United States, 54% of waste is buried, 13% is burned, and 33% is recycled). Then, the book covers options for waste other than burying and burning (reduce, reuse, repair, compost, and recycle). The guide ends with some more advanced technical information for older students about plastics and landfill design.

A more advanced page for the interested class and teacher

Each page has an image on the front for students to view and ideas and talking points on the back for teacher use.

The Trash FlipBook is designed to be taught mostly through pictures. If you have older students (grades 3+) and would like your students to learn the same material through reading, check out Talking Trash, the upper elementary guide.

Finally, many of the NEED guides are now available in Spanish, if you have a bilingual class. The NEED materials are fantastic and free – check them out if you’re planning to teach about trash or energy!

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It’s the time for pine. If you celebrate Christmas or happen to love evergreens, you probably have a fantastic tree in your home right now…  so what do you do when the needles fall off and the whole thing turns brown?

Mulch shredded yard waste

Shredded used wood is called mulch

Mulch it!

Like composting, mulching takes organic waste and turns it into something useful, keeping waste out of the landfill, which is always good.

Every year, New York City collects used Christmas trees and turns them into mulch. Mulch is a layer of protective wood chips placed in garden beds to prevent weeds, keep moisture in the soil, and reduce garden erosion.

Gardenology.org-IMG 2515 ucla09

Mulch helped this plant grow

In other words, your no longer wanted Christmas tree will be turned into a very useful product for gardeners. Mulching your tree is one form of waste management, like reducing, composting, and recycling. Rather than ending up in a landfill, you can turn your tree into mulch.

Join the fun by bringing your tree to a participating location on January 7th or January 8th, 2012. Check out the MulchFest website for a full list of drop-off locations. There are 70 locations throughout the five boroughs. At half of those locations, you can take the mulch home with you for use in your garden!

… and if you’re dropping a tree off at Brower Park, swing by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum next door and say hi!

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Compost!

Back in October, we talked a lot about compost, but since it’s such an important part of waste management, there’s no harm in talking about it again.

Compost makes for happy worms!

Composting is the process of taking unwanted organic material, allowing it to decompose, and then using the decomposed soil as a great fertilizer for your garden or farm.

The idea is to take unwanted items — a rotten tomato, a banana peel — that would otherwise end up in a landfill and put it to productive use. In other words, composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food.

For more information about the science and sustainability of compost and about composting with kids, check out our previous posts on the subject, all tagged as compost.

By the way, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is closed tomorrow (December 25th) but open again on Monday (December 26th). Teach Green in Brooklyn will be back on December 28th with more great information about waste and what to do with it.

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So, let’s say that you have something that is waste and you can’t reuse it so you want to get rid of it. Most people would just throw that waste in the trash…

What is trash in the image below?

Nothing! None of that should end up in the trash can. The first group shows banana peels, eggshells, and leafy greens being placed in a compost bin. The rest of the items – newspapers and cereal boxes, glass bottles and jars, cans, and plastic bottles – can all be recycled. (Recycling varies from region to region, but these items can certainly all be recycled here in New York City.)

Waste is something that you no longer want or you can no longer use. Trash is something useless that will end up in a landfill.

Not all waste is trash. In fact, many of the things we throw away are not trash and should be composted or recycled instead. So that’s what we’re going to talk about for the next few days… because it’s awesome to have smaller landfills and more productive uses for our waste.

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You’re finished with something. It has served it’s use. You don’t want it anymore. What do you do next?

Today, we’re going to identify 4 places waste can go and 1 way to prevent waste from happening at all, and then we’ll go into those in more depth over the next week plus. These are kid-friendly definitions to use with individuals of all ages.

With waste, you can:

Composting takes food waste, turns it into soil, and then you can grow new food, like tomatoes!

Reuse: It is great to be able to reuse items; unlike recycling, reusing allows you to give things a second or third life without having to make any changes. Consider trading an old book with a friend – you each get something new to read.

Compost: Composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food. This blog already has LOTS of information about composting if you want to learn more about that.

Recycle: Recycling helps turn unwanted materials into something new and wanted. However, recycling requires energy and is therefore not quite as sustainable as reusing or composting.

Landfill compactor

Landfills are gross. By reusing, composting, recycling, and reducing, we prevent waste from ending up in one.

Trash:Everything that cannot be reused, recycled, or composted – plastic utensils, cellophane wrappers, Styrofoam trays – is trash.  It will be thrown away and end up in a landfill, which is gross. Reducing the amount of trash keeps landfills from getting out of control!

Reduce: Before you generate waste, you can prevent it. Think before you buy and you will have less waste, which is great.

For the next few entries, we are going to give you more information about reusing, recycling, reducing, and just how icky landfills are!!

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If you are planning to start a garden or compost program at your school, here are two highly recommended resources. Enjoy!

How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Pringle is one of the best (if not the best) starting a garden guides out there. The book covers everything – from teaching ecology, to writing grants, to how to collaborate to get difficult tasks done. As a supplement to the amazing resources provided by GrowNYC, this guide will help keep you and your garden on track.

If you are interested in starting a worm composting program, try The Worm Cafe, Mid-Scale Vermicomposting of Lunchroom Wastes by Binet Payne. This book tells the story of a school that decided to compost organic waste from their lunchroom, the work entailed, and their eventual success. Also included are classroom activities to tie into the school-wide vermicomposting.

Do you have any other garden or compost manuals you use on a regular basis? We would love to hear what your favorites are. Leave a comment and let us know.

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