Making soil is not something students at Burning Tree Elementary School usually learn how to do.
But after a week, they were pretty good at it, Vice Principal Jennifer Lowndes said.
As part of a two-week trial that ended Friday, students learned how to compost and why composting helps the environment.
Students worked with growingSOUL (Sustainable Opportunities for Universal Learning), a sustainability education center, and The Compost Crew, an at-home pickup service for organic waste.
Plastic buckets were set up in the cafeteria and PTA volunteers helped children sort recycling, compost materials and trash from their lunches.
GrowingSOUL gave presentations showing how to compost — all food waste but meat, plus paper items such as towels and bags in moderation, breaks down into a mixture that can be used to fertilize.
By the seventh day of the trial, the children collected less than 20 pounds of trash and nearly 45 pounds of compost; that compares to more than 40 pounds of trash and more than 50 pounds of compost at the start of the trial.
The food waste was picked up by the Compost Crew, Lowndes said. The waste will be composted, and the school may receive some of the compost in the form of soil to be used at the school, she said.
“It helps our school be green,” said fifth-grader Lydia Zebrak, 11.
Lydia is a member of the student Green Team, which helps spread environmental awareness and takes on environmentally friendly projects.
The project was hosted by the school’s PTA Environmental Committee, which wanted to offer a hands-on learning experience. The school received a $300 grant from the Pyle Education Foundation, which supports the Pyle Middle School community.
Student volunteers from Walt Whitman High School helped students sort their leftovers.
Daniela Gomes, a 10th-grader at Whitman, is part of the high school’s Green Team.
“If [the students] learn [to recycle and compost] now, they will be used to it and they won’t even think twice about it later, and that will do wonders for the environment,” she said.
Mary Kunst and Laura Flicker, teachers at Burning Tree, led the school to becoming a Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education certified Green School.
They worked on energy conservation awareness and recycling efforts to qualify, Kunst said.
All Montgomery County Public Schools are getting more involved with sustainable efforts and education, said Hillary H. Kirchman, program manager of the school system’s Energy and Recycling Team.
Last year, the school system recycled 43 percent of its waste, including paper, cardboard, commingled materials, yard waste and scrap metal, she said.
Teachers are able to find energy and recycling lessons within the new curriculum, Curriculum 2.0, and ask people from Kirchman’s team to teach in their classrooms.
Lydia said she encourages her classmates to compost and recycle because it is good for the Earth, and easy to do.
She and other members of the green team collect recycling from classrooms. It is important for her school to be green, she said.
“If a school isn’t green, then why would anyone else be?” she asked.