Waterloo Schools

The Waterloo school district campus is a K-12 facility located in Atwater, Ohio has a burgeoning sustainability program. With support and financial assistance from Sustainability for Educators and the Environment (SEE), the Portage Soil and Water Conservation District, and Portage County Commissioners, Waterloo continues its zero waste effort, and moves closer toward its goal of unifying the school’s curriculum through sustainability.

A major aspect of this initiative is Waterloo’s food scrap diversion project. During meal times, bins are set out in the cafeteria, into which students can deposit their empty milk cartons and leftover food scrap. All food scrap is composted—lettuce, vegetables, burgers, you name it. If it is scrap food, then it goes into the compost units. Nothing is wasted, and because of that, the school yields sixty pounds of compostable material a day. It is estimated that the composting program will reduce school trash by approximately 70%.

Nine compost units have been set up on the Waterloo school grounds to manage this vast amount of food scrap. With additional funding and assistance from SEE, Waterloo hopes to purchase a mechanical auger, which will aid and accelerate the composting process. Once food scrap is composted, Waterloo will use the compost in the planting of trees and gardens at the school. There are even plans to sell excess compost, which would provide more money for the no-waste effort.

Members of the Waterloo Sprouts Club, a group of elementary school garderners, have built and planted raised bed gardens, in which school compost will be used. The gardens hold many varieties of plants and vegetables, and the harvest which they produce is given to the local food shelf. There are hopes to expand the raised beds even further along the grounds, plant more vegetables, and eventually use the crops they produce in the school cafeteria. This would not only add to the sustainability effort, but would also contribute to the production of healthy meals for students.

These sustainability advancements are not only excellent examples of the wonders the zero waste effort can achieve, but they also serve to further Waterloo’s main goal: unifying its curriculum through sustainability. For instance, bird boxes, which are built by students in Waterloo’s wood shop class, are placed throughout the grounds. Waterloo is participating in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nest Watch, allowing students to monitor and gather data on wildlife activity in the very bird boxes they built. Additionally, there are plans to lengthen the paths that run throughout the school’s fields and wooded areas, which could then be used by the cross-country team or any other sports team in need of a good run. Waterloo is also working to implement a school-wide “adopt-a-tree” program inspired by the Project Learning Tree activity of the same name. In “adopt-a-tree,” students are assigned a tree, which they continue to monitor throughout their Waterloo school career. As they grow, the tree grows with them and continues to play an important role in their education, appearing in the curriculums of such diverse courses as science classes (the tree provides an excellent real-world example when teaching kids about organisms and organic processes, like photosynthesis) and art classes (drawing a realistic picture of a tree is a great challenge, and using fallen leaves in art projects can often produce great results).

In short, the Waterloo School District campus is a thriving sustainable educational facility which will only continue to grow in the future. There is so much going on at Waterloo that they need a kiosk on the grounds to provide information about the campus. But, don’t worry, even the kiosk is sustainable: it will be set in pervious concrete, which will allow rain water to soak through it and into the ground, instead of being diverted elsewhere. It seems they’ve thought of everything.

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