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A Culture of Kindness toward the Earth at Valley Elementary

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Valley Elementary School, located just outside of Truro, might be a small school, but they are mighty green! The school has been caring for the environment for a long time. The school joined the Green Schools Nova Scotia community in the fall of 2017 and have been full steam ahead with initiatives to waste less ever since. The student Green Team has been very busy this year and has been supported through it all by grade four teacher Ms Kimberly Aarts.

The Green Team noticed that there was a lot of the organic waste from their snacks was going into the garbage cans instead of being diverted to a compost system. The classrooms didn’t have compost bins. The team worked together with Ms Aarts to get compost bins for all the classrooms! The team has been working with classes at the school, especially the younger students, to help them learn and get excited about composting at school. The team has worked toward showing the whole school some of the ways to decrease the amount of garbage being created at school, including helping fellow students sort their waste in the lunchroom.

The team’s efforts to waste less didn’t stop after getting compost bins in classrooms. The team also worked together to create a proposal to ban single-use plastics in their lunchroom! This would mean no plastic cutlery, no straws, no styrofoam plates nor bowls. While they are excited to hear back about their proposal, the Green Team is already helping students reduce waste created by their snacks and lunches brought from home. I was able to virtually visit students this spring to teach them about Litterless lunches. We learned about using reusable containers, reusable water bottles, and bringing in reusable cutlery from home. All these helpful hints can help us work toward creating zero waste with packed lunches. Reducing our school lunch waste helps families save money and eat a healthy meal while keeping unnecessary plastic out of our landfills and oceans; it’s a win-win for everyone!

The Green Team, which consists primarily of grade 4 students, wanted to do even more to help their school go green. On June 4th, they hosted their local Divert NS Waste Educator, Deborah Searle, for a special visit. She brought the class some special critters: red wiggler worms! These tiny creatures are busy with a special job: building compost! While students have compost bins in classrooms, some food scraps such as apple cores and banana peels can be fed to the worms. The worms will eat the food scraps and turn that waste into nutrient-rich compost which can be used in the Valley Elementary school garden! Red wiggler worms need a specially maintained habitat that is dark, cool, and moist. They can eat about half their body weight in food every day! The Green Team was given one pound of worms to work with, so the worms will receive about half a pound of food scraps each day. Over time the worms will reproduce so eventually the class will be able to feed the worms even more food scraps. The worms have been taken home for the summer and will return to the classroom in September to help students continue to gain experience with the path of decomposition. We can all learn about worms, their habitats, and reducing waste by keeping a vermicompost. If your classroom is interested in vermicomposting, contact your local Divert NS Waste Educator to learn about starting your own vermicompost.

Being green, and being kind to the environment is a key value for students at Valley Elementary School. There is even a school mural titled “A healthy environment inside and out.” The mural shows students recycling, composting, planting trees, tending a garden, and more. The Green Team at Valley Elementary is a great example of what amazing green achievements can be accomplished by a group of environmental champions. I’m excited to see what the students at this school will do next!

~Pamela Chandler,
Engagement Officer, Northern NS

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