I need advice starting a large-scale program

MatthewPhillipsFebruary 11, 2014

I'm a 21 year old college student in NW Indiana. For a course, a classmate and I are going to set up a composting program at a local middle school. We will work with a teacher and a group of the children to set up the composting for this whole semester, then the children will keep the program running!
That's the plan at least.
This group has about 40 children. The middle school has probably 500 students who eat lunch there every weekday.
Now, my classmate and I are involved with composting at our college. However, we weren't there from the start. We basically just know how to gather the compost, weigh it, and dump it into a bin.
So I figured I would come here for help!
I would appreciate anything that anyone would have to say. Tomorrow (Feb 12), we are meeting the children for lunch and we will tour the cafeteria, I'll update anybody who is interested in that.

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1.Prepare the compost site. Site hunting should be done before everything. A suitable site should not be too far or too near from the kitchen waste source preferably with one side of the compost protected from wind.
2.Build or buy the compost bins.
3.Write down the schedule for kitchen waste collection.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:08PM
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There is collectively more knowledge here at GW than one could use in several years. The hitch is that along with knowledge held by each individual,there resides contrasting opinions on how to apply said knowledge. I reccomend contacting the local state or city ag agency where you will find litature composed by teachers in format that is easy to follow and understand. I for one would love to see updates and pics as the program progresses. No matter how old or long it's been since last post,threads bump to the top with each new post. There may even be GW folks nearby that want to assist the teacher after you and your classmate moves on.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:26AM
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I see two likely problems with composting kitchen and cafeteria waste at a public school:
1-who is responsible for maintaining the compost pile? There has to be someone who is managing the process, and checking it several times a day.
2-there will very likely be a need for added "browns," such as shredded tree leaves, shredded paper, or sawdust. It might be necessary to add 10 gallons of this material every day, so a continuous supply will be required.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:58AM
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Your main problem will be excessive food waste and not enough "browns". If it starts to stink and breed flies, it's a goner.

So you need to educate them on how to cover the food scraps with dry stuff to keep the layering going. I'm sure that they could bring enough junk mail and have other papers to shred for that.

Also, what is the plan for the finished compost? School gardens?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 9:41PM
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Cornell has an excellent web site that is meant to help those wishing to start a school composting program and the National Gardening Association also has some very good information, www.garden.org

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting in schools

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 6:43AM
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Get with the school district. Prepare a document releasing you from liability from any injuries or other mishaps arising out of the program. Make sure it is signed by someone in the district who has authority to sign such a document.
Get signed permissions from parents.
If you are using kitchen wastes such as food items served but not eaten by the students, you must provide gloves so that the students in the project do not accidentally contract any diseases from food uneaten by ill students or waste items that may have been inadvertently contaminated with blood or other body fluids.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 1:34PM
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Numerous school systems have gardening and composting programs in place, so do not spend time trying to reinvent the wheel. Battle Creek, MI schools have an excellent program in place with some 20 years of experience. I have seen the lesson plans but right off cannot recall who is in charge.
Do a web search for school gardening and a large list of resources will come up.

Here is a link that might be useful: kids gardening

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 6:42AM
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I have talked with someone involved with the Battle Creek Schools gardening project that would be willing to chat with you. Send me your email addy so I can get it to them.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:31AM
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You could look at a number of different variations on composting.

In ground, trench composting.
Small 3'x3'x3' bin
Larger 5'x5'x3' bin

Check out the info at Cornel Composting. Their 'composting' alternatives start at a 2 liter soda bottle composter.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 2:34PM
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