Composting at Camp!

With the launch of our successful composting drop off program last March, the 14th Street Y has discovered how willing people are to participate in composting when given the opportunity to do so. Composting is a great eco educational tool for kids, and it’s never had more room to shine than right now, at our New Country Day Camp. Today we’re sharing a blog written by Aneta, New Country’s very own Greening Coordinator! .

Kids learn about composting at New Country Day Camp!
Kids learn about composting at New Country Day Camp!

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We are very excited to introduce to you our Composting and Gardening program at New Country Day Camp in summer 2013 where campers and staff have been busy playing, smiling, and composting!

Our environmental program exposed 600+ children, from ages 4-12, and 100+ staff to the environmental advantages of composting and Jewish values that are associated with environmental advocacy. The program consisted of a diverse exposure not only to composting, but to gardening, environmental interconnectedness and our responsibility as members and leaders in this world. Campers were introduced to our worm bins, our metal can compost bins, our sensory/Havdalah garden and lead through activities on the "what, how and why" of compost. Our sensory garden featured plants that stimulated different senses: basil and stevia for taste, spearmint, peppermint and English lavender for smell, sunflowers for sight, dusty miller and lemongrass for touch and echinacea for sound because of its attraction to songbirds. It was also entitled a Havdalah garden because it reminds children of the ceremony we have after Shabbat, in which we use our senses to taste the wine, smell the herbs and see the candle.

At lunch, and after every Sustainable snack, children were reminded to throw their food scraps into our green composting bins filled with our compostable bio-bags. A "Yay or Nay" sign supplemented the reminder by showing children what could be (hence the yay!) and what could not be (nay) composted.

Every Wednesday and Friday, the bio-bags were collected and brought onto the Manhattan buses to be brought back to the Y, where it was compiled with the Y's compost. This acted as a zero-carbon footprint method because our children were already traveling on the buses back and forth from camp and the net worth of our compost collection was greater because of the variety of items the Y accepted for composting. On average, NCDC diverted about 130 pounds of food scraps away from landfills and into nutritious soil a week. At the end of Week 5, NCDC has composted 685 pounds of compost and is expected to produce over a thousand pounds in one camp season! That's a whole lot of soil that then is used for local farms upstate.

As for programming, campers how to create seed globes, which are small balls of organic compost, water, red art clay and seeds that act as micro-environments for plants to grow almost anywhere, and exposed campers to Jewish values such as Bal Taschit (avoiding waste), L'avdah u'leshamrah (protecting the environment), Manhigut (leadership) and Arevut (mutual responsibility).

We illustrated the values of composting by creating educational and experiential opportunities for the campers to engage in throughout the day in their age and subject based units. As Greening Coordinator, I designed programming that intertwined environmental education along with each unit. For example, we set up our compost bins, built our sensory/Havdalah garden and made mint lemonade from our garden with CCP, our Cooking, Camping and Pioneering Unit. With Gymnastics, we discussed the importance of a closed cycle and brainstormed other cycles that exist in our lives, such as the cycles of the moon and sun, the planets, and the life cycles of plants and animals. We manifested these ideas through body movements in a show during Shabbat. For Arts and Crafts, we built recycled scarecrows for our garden made out of toilet paper rolls, milk jugs and old clothing. With Science and Technology, we did soil testing, used this information to decide upon the location for next year's planter box and planted sunflowers as an activity for teaching phytoremediation. For Performing Arts, we created stop-motion films that both promoted and educated composting and environmental work to campers and you! the parents.

We couldn't have done it without your campers! To continue your camper's composting efforts and help bring the habit home, below are a few links on how to deal with the food waste that your home produces:

1. A worm bin is a great way to do indoor composting. Worm bins can be purchased through the Lower East Side Ecology Center: http://www.lesecologycenter.org/index.php/composting.html. They even have a compost hotline!

2. Outdoor compost bins are also an option for any outdoor space.

3. GreenMarkets accept compost collections, and other forms of recycling such as textile recycling, from homes at varying times and locations in NYC: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourmarkets. An excellent way to keep food scraps in your home in between visits is to freeze your compost!

4. Last but not least, the Y is happy to accept any and all of your compost. Click here to learn about the Y’s Composting Program!

Join our campers in our composting efforts and keep on composting!

Aneta Bujno, our Greening Coordinator, has worked at NCDC for five summers. Aneta learned how to teach environmental education by volunteering at Bushwick City Farm, a grassroots community organization in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

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