Cranberry Bog Outdoor Classroom Compost Project

BY Janice Barton

Wareham Middle School

Project Description
The goal would be to establish a composting system at the school. Wareham Middle School has a unique STEAM program for 7th graders, which includes a mini-cranberry bog outdoor classroom and live chickens at the school, as well as a seasonal garden that grows vegetables. A pollinator garden (with non-stinging bees!) is being started this year. A compost system fits in with the STEAM Academy’s sustainability and local agribusiness curriculum and will support existing projects. Students would research composting and what types of foods/materials can be composted; how it is used and why it is an important resource. Employing the Engineering Design Process, students will decide which type of composting equipment/process would be best for our situation. Students will then gather the compost material and operate the system. The compost will be used as fertilizer for the mini-bogs and gardens, the fertilizing is also undertaken by the students.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)
The success of the project will be gauged by the actual production of composted fertilizer, as well as the assessed knowledge of the students at the middle school regarding composting and sustainability of an ecosystem. As this is part of the middle school curriculum, students will be assessed on it in the classroom as well as outdoors in the mini-bog classroom. While at first it will impact this year’s STEAM Academy of almost 100 students, as classes move through the school, they will learn of the project and participate in it at some level. It is even possible that we will generate enough compost to sell it to the public, to raise money for equipment and supplies for the outdoor classroom. Again, students would lead the way in creating a “business” selling the compost fertilizer.

Benefit to the students and the school
This project is the ultimate in hands-on learning! STEAM teachers have been pleasantly surprised every year with the amount of enthusiasm students have for the outdoor classroom and related projects, such as the chickens and other sustainability initiatives. Students not only get to discover in the classroom the theory behind composting and recycling, they get to actually produce composted fertilizer! As previously stated, all students who go through seventh grade will have the opportunity to participate in the project, so it will eventually impact all Wareham schoolchildren. It will be another positive educational step in our unique cranberry outdoor classroom project.
The school will also benefit from a reduction in waste, and the mini-bogs and gardens will benefit from a better quality of fertilizer, as part of a successful cycle to protect resources.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)
We would start the project as soon as we received notice of the funding and the weather allowed. It would be an ongoing project, and students would also have a unit on it in the classroom during the 7th grade school year. Students would begin by researching different composting methods to determine the most practical system for the school’s requirements. compost material could be collected by students in the lunchroom, in the same manner that “treats” (half-eaten apples, etc.) are collected for the chickens presently.