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WASECA EARTH WEEK 2005


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Waseca

 Waseca is a Native Indian word meaning Fertile. Waseca Learning Environment is a Montessori School where anyone who spends any time, is sure to learn new things regardless of their age. It seems like it was meant to be, that I would be taught and then get a chance to teach at such a wonderful place. I've been working with Waseca to teach the children about organics and composting since 2002. Special thanks to Pam Blanchard J and Sharon Duncan J for all the hearts, minds and souls you've touched and all the wonderful things you bring to this world.

How to slow Global Warming...   Give to Creative Earth, we have a job to do, regardless of of our passion for the earth, without your support good ideas are just good ideas. Our mission is to reach and teach every student and teacher in the world by the year 2015. We need to put the brakes on Global warming. 

Creative Earth is a 501 c 3 charitable organization under the Internal Revenue Service tax code.  

 



Measuring Compost Temperature

Before we take the compost to the school, we make sure it has reached a temperature above 131oF for a minimum of three days. This heat generated by the thermophilic bacteria will kill any pathogens that could harm plants or animals, we being the animals.

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The Slide Show

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Program Photos by Lulu Alex

The first part of our presentation consists of a slide show. We (my assistants and I) create our presentation based on our target audience. In this case children ages 3- 6, their Montessori teachers, and a few of the parents.


Hands On

 

When the students are all seated we give the kids a bone. This particular bone is from a deer we composted. The idea is to show how through the act of composting we can return the sun's energy back to the earth, completing the full cycle of life.

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It doesn't smell!

 

The children all get a chance to see, touch and smell. Returning the nutrients in organics, back to our soils, is a completion of the cycle of life. This animal will now foster new life. Through the process of thermophilic composting, this animal will feed plants which it once consumed. It will then sequester carbon from our atmosphere through those plants, add to water purification and infiltration through microbial rich compost and plant roots, as well as prevent soil erosion by means of compost mulching - a truly rich afterlife.


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Presentation Content

 

In all our presentations we explain the processes involved in growing thermophilic bacteria. Thermophiles do most of the work in breaking down the organics into compost. The system only works efficiently as a whole. Without the right combination of water, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, the process will not work. These microbes, like all living things, need the right conditions to thrive.


Any Questions?

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There are always questions or, more often, comments and stories from the children pertaining to their own life experiences.


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Let's Go Outside

 

Feeling the heat generated by these microbes is amazing. We bring thermophilic compost in a cooler as part of our presentation. The thermometer is reading over 140oF; it's so hot you can't keep your finger in it for more than a few seconds.


Anxiously Waiting

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Everyone gets a chance to look at the thermometer and, if they want, stick a finger or two into the hot compost.


Out of the Box

I dump the compost out onto the tarp. It's fun to watch the reaction when the water vapor steams up off the pile.

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Feeling The Heat

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The heat that is generated by these microbes is absolutely amazing. Now we look at the environment in which they grow so well.


Closer Look

 

The hands-on or hands-in interaction of this program really touches all those who participate.

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Back In The Crate

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Now it's time to put the critters back in the cooler. I'm sure trillions of my thermophiles just died as the temperature of their environment changed. Oops! No worries... in a short time trillions more will repopulate this rich growing media.


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Organic Residuals

Every year in the state of Georgia alone, 800,000 tons of food residuals go into our landfills. In a landfill under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions, organics generate Methane (CH4). Methane is between 21 and 25 times more efficient at trapping heat in our atmosphere than is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Curbing our Methane release is essential to slowing global warming. To find out more about Methane and climate change check out our Links to the Environment.


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Yummy

We take a picture of the food residuals the children have diverted from their meals. Next week when we come back, we'll look at this picture as part of our slide show. We'll talk about what kinds of organics are in the picture, and what might have happened to those strawberries and banana peels now that they have been in the compost pile for a week.

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Back At The Compost Pile

 

We leave Waseca and take the collected organics back to the compost pile. I'll dig a hole in the top of the pile to place our Compost Separation Study Crate in.


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Mixing Up The Organics

I'll mix the fresh organics with some active compost. This will increase the ability of the microbes to digest the new material. The smaller the particle size, the more surface area created, the faster it will break down. Kind of like chewing your food instead of swallowing it whole.

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Covering The Crate

 

The Compost Separation Study Crate with the organics will have to be buried about 18 inches into the pile. This will ensure that the organics will be quickly digested and will also prevent any odors from leaving the pile. An odor or smell is made up of Atoms which combine to make up the Molecules that create the odor or smell. The Bacteria eat parts of the Molecules and change them. Result: No smell!


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Crate in pile 4/17/05

The Compost Separation Study Crate is examined four days later. The plastic strawberry container gets slightly melted, but the microbes won't break it down since it's not organic. If not recycled, it will be around for about 450 years.

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Checking The Temperature

The temperature is almost 170oF... looks like our microbes are happily doing their thing. Remember, we need to have a minimum of three days at 131oF to get our pathogens killed. Then we know the material will be safe to handle, or eat if you are really hungry. Ewwhhh! J

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Crate In Pile 4/20/05 Am.

It's been a week since we put the Compost Separation Study Crate into the pile, time to go back to school. We dig up the crate and check the temperature of the material inside.

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Checking The Temperature

Our thermophiles have been living well, cooking and consuming the organics. The temperature is 165oF and we're good to go.

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Compost Separation Study Crate

We remove the crate from the pile and dump the contents into the cooler to insulate the heat.

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Back In The Classroom

Once again we start inside with our slide show. I talk a little about what we did last week. I want to get the class thinking about the idea of these things (microbes) that they can't see eating all the organics they didn't want and turning them into soil. The most important slide, is the one showing those food residuals they collected.


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Let's Go Outside

The excitement is contagious. The kids can't wait to see for themselves what happened to all those different foods we put in the compost.

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What's Left

Remember what we had added to the compost. Those mushy strawberries, banana peels, spaghetti and sauce, melon rinds, corn, partially eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, those cheesy goldfish crackers. Oh, don't forget the plastic container the strawberries came in. Huh, do you think the bacteria like spaghetti? Eyes are fixed and minds are working.


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Let's Have A Peek

I slowly lift the lid edge of the cooler to look inside. The kids are watching closely, some leaning forward in anticipation. I close it real fast as if I've seen a monster. "I don't know if we should let them out. They still look hungry." The children break out in giggles. I love this!

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Returning The Sun's Energy

 

We have conversation about where all the organics we had put in the crate had come from. Where does our food come from? Our food comes from the energy of the sun. The sun makes the plants grow. The plants are eaten by the animals. Some animals eat other animals, which ate the plants that got their energy from the sun. But what else do plants need to grow? Soil! Plants grow best in fertile soils. So by returning organics back to soil, we’re helping the plants grow! That’s a sunny thought.J


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Looking, Touching, Thinking

 

Everyone gets a chance to experience in these workshops. See for yourself, touch if you like. These tiniest of creatures have taken all that food and turned it in to soil in just seven days. Incredible!