PBL Week: Operation Compost

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Last week, JVTF had the privilege of hosting a class of 5th grade students from Avondale Elementary School for a Project Based Learning week; during their time at the Farm, the students designed and built a compost system for their school community.  When fully operational, the system will provide compost for Avondale’s Farm Lab.

The program was STEM-focused and designed to address relevant science, math and ELA standards.  We began by examining the issue of trash and food waste; on Day 1, students visited the New Georgia Landfill, in order to develop an understanding of just how much food is wasted in Birmingham, and then stepped back to look at the problem of waste in the United States more generally. Day 2, students studied the role of decomposers in the ecosystem, cultured compost bacteria, learned how to create a successful compost pile, and spoke with a representative from J3 Organics about running a successful composting business.

In the second part of the week, groups of students applied their knowledge in order to help alleviate the problem of food waste in their school cafeteria.  Each small group of students worked on a different part the system: one team built compost containers for their cafeteria, another built and designed moveable signage for the hallways to inform other students about the new compositing initiative, while others developed creative and educational signage for the Farm Lab to teach younger students about the science of decomposition.  No matter their project assignment, all students had the opportunity to design and to build, using raw materials and professional tools.  By the end of the week, students had a functional and beautiful system in place, which they presented to their peers on the last day of the program.

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