Chagrin Valley Times

Sat Oct 16 2010

Chagrin Valley Times 

KIDS MIX FAITH WITH COMPOSTING LESSONS

By Sue Hoffman

Students are turning banana peels, apple cores and other waste from fruits and vegetables into rich soil in a new composting program at St. Joan of Arc School in Chagrin Falls. The composting program was launched Monday at a school-wide assembly featuring representatives from Sustainability for Educators and the Environment in Kent. 

The assembly also kicked off “Environment Week” at the school, which included classroom lessons, a fund-raiser and contests. 

The environmental program is the brainchild of fifth-grade teacher Lisa Pizzuto, who started a composting project with her class last year. “Since we’re a faith-based school, we need to take care of the earth,” Ms. Pizzuto said. “Composting breaks down food into good soil and creates less waste.”

Last year’s class used a “worm bin” to transform food into soil, she said. “A parent suggested we take the program school-wide.”

Ms. Pizzuto said Sustainability for Educators provided the compost bin and helped the school obtain a grant from the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District for the digesters, tools and other materials. The anaerobic digesters can also process meat.

Ella Grbac, a fifth-grader at St. Joan of Arc School in Chagrin Falls, mixed fruit and vegetable waste with wood chips in a new compost bin.

Ella Grbac, a fifth-grader at St. Joan of Arc School
in Chagrin Falls, mixed fruit and vegetable waste
with wood chips in a new compost bin.

Sustainability for Educators supports sustainable waste-management practices in schools in Northeast Ohio, according to environmental educator Kristie Hendricks, who presented the assembly. She told students that a full bucket can hold 12 pounds of food scraps. In the first two weeks of school, composting saved 25 pounds of food waste from the trash, she said. 

Fifth-grader Ben Cervelloni added wood chips to one of the cone-shaped digesters, which break down food into soil without the use of oxygen.

Fifth-grader Ben Cervelloni added wood chips 
to one of the cone-shaped digesters, which 
break down food into soil without the use of oxygen.

Ms. Hendricks said the wood chips provide a bulking agent for the compost. “They prevent animals from picking through it and create air pockets for promoting the decomposition process.”

Following the assembly, Sustainability for Educators representatives provided environmental lessons in each classroom throughout the day, stressing the goal of a “zero-waste” life.

Zero-waste competitions have been taking place at lunch this week, in which students are challenged to bring their lunches in reusable containers rather than those that are discarded.

In the poster contest, students have been asked to design a poster highlighting the importance of caring for the environment and benefits of composting. The winner will receive a sustainability pack with a reusable water bottle and sandwich holder.

Proceeds of the fund-raiser will be donated to Sustainability for Educators. Students in Ms. Pizzuto’s class have been composting since the first day of school this year.

“It’s to help the environment,” fifth grader Callia Hutchison said.

The project was not new for some of Ms. Pizzuto’s students, who already have been composting at home.

Alex Eiben, of Auburn, and Ian Zatko, of Bainbridge, said their families have small compost bins that they add to regularly.

Ms. Pizzuto said her class will continue to compost for the rest of this month. During the year, the other grade level classes in the school will take charge of the project. The soil may be used for campus beautification or special gardening projects at the end of the year.

Principal Shelley DiBacco said she was excited about the project. “I’m proud of the kids for being environmental stewards,” she said.