The Germantown Friends School Fifth Grade Environmental Action Club (E.A.C.), led by GFS science teacher Geoffrey Selling, is group of 5th graders committed to helping the environment, and to encouraging others to do the same. They meet every Monday after school from 2:45-4:00pm.
To start off the year, the E.A.C. decided to start the school year with a dried fruit/candy/nut sale/fundraiser. The student members made all sales. The kids went around to people they knew, and sold the product(s) to them. They made over $3800.
Choosing the Theme
Next, the E.A.C. needed to choose a project theme for the year. Through a survey, and a few discussions, the final decision was: composting.
What is composting
Composting is when you take food scraps, leaves, lawn clippings etc., and let them decompose (a fancy word for rot) into rich, fertile soil in a controlled way. Once done, composted soil quite good planting soil (I’ll explain more later). Depending on the type of food, and method of composting, it can from take 2 weeks to 6 months to compost a food scrap.
Why we compost
Here are a few reasons why you should compost:
- Composting reduces waste, and therefore landfill space.
- Reduces methane, a greenhouse gas emitted in the process of decomposition. Methane is more than 20 times more potent then CO2 (warms the Earth 20 times faster)
- Composing creates unimaginably fertile soil, great for your garden or flowerbed.
How to compost
Here’s some info on composting:
After the group had educated themselves about composting, it was time to educate others. So, they put on a play. After weeks of brainstorming, script writing, costume making, rehearsing, and program planning, the production was unveiled on April 20.
This play, which consisted of three skits (or sketches), two presentations (using PowerPoint™), two songs, and many good lessons, was a fabulous display of dramatic excellence. These lessons could not have been told in such a hilarious way without the students. This play, all of its roots, ideas, props, rehearsals and performances, were accomplished by the hard work, time, and energy of the student members. BRAVO!
Earth Force Summit 2010
One thing that the E.A.C. does every year is attend the annual Earth Force Summit. Earth Force is a non-profit organization that supports environmental youth groups (such as the E.A.C.), and provide funding for them.
Each year, Earth Force holds a local summit (or meeting) at the Philadelphia Zoo. There, other groups like the E.A.C. from around Philadelphia and the vicinity showed their ideas to the other groups attending. There were ten groups in attendance. Each group would set up a booth, and talk to the other groups about their project. After about an hour of roaming around looking at other groups’ booths, there was a puppet show, a performance by GFS (one of the skits they did in their earlier play), and a raffle. After the summit was over, each group was allowed to look at the animals in the Zoo. To learn more about Earth Force, visit their website at:
Once the weather warmed up, there was much yard work to be done. One of the E.A.C’s jobs is to help maintain and beautify the school campus. First on the list was cleaning the pond. A group of 5-6 members emptied (more like bailed) out the water in the pond using buckets, took out the leaves, sticks, rocks, algae, and of course, composted them.
Then Geoffrey refilled the pond. They also rearranged the rocks around the pond, fixed the filter, and installed new pond plants using money from their earlier fundraiser. They celebrated this success with brownies. Yum.
Another victory was extracting the multiflora rose from the Lower School Woods. A group of 3 kids and 1 adult finally removed the root after 3 periods of hard digging. The multiflora rose is a hard to remove and extremely invasive species of rose.
To read more on the multiflora rose, go to:
The Berm and Vicinity
Another job to be completed, was to ready the berm (a raised area for planting) in the Lower School Woods for next year’s implants. A small group of 2 took a period and a half to weed the berm, and trim the existing plants. Also, another group of three readied another area for next year’s planting. They also planted three small shrubs near the edge of woods.
Over a few periods, 4-6 members improved the pathways in the woods by remulching them, adjusting the logs lining the paths, and trimming the branches occluding the path. The branches belonged to the nuisance plant that dominates the Lower School Woods, the Ohio Buckeye. For more information on the Ohio buckeye, click below.
A few years back, the E.A.C. built a butterfly garden outside the Main Building, as one of the goals/responsibilities of the E.A.C. is to help beautify the campus. This garden is filled with native plants (plants the belong in this habitat). During the fall, many sticks and leaves had fallen into the garden, and those had to be raked out. A group of 5-7 did this. They also weeded the garden and tied the daffodil leaves; they get in the way otherwise. To finish, they cut the daffodil leaves, and added new plants. This fix-up was much needed.
The main goal of the 2010 E.A.C was install new composting bins for the Lower School. The old bins were falling apart, old, rotten, and had served their purpose. It was time to replace them (in the opinion of some, that time had long past).
After looking in magazines, books, websites, and other places, the E.A.C. decided it was easier, and more economical to ask GFS Maintenance Dept. to build one for us. They built a "four-bin system" compost bin. This specific type of composting consists of four bins, one for leaves, one for recently added scraps, one for partially decomposed scraps, and one for finished compost. GFS needs a special bin for leaves, because every fall, if all the leaves on campus were to be put in a 40'x40'x12' room, they would fill it to the top. Of course, we can' t compost all of them, but we do as much as we can. The other three are used in a “three-bin” process. To find out more on the “three bin” process, visit:
The bins themselves are made of a type of composite made of old plastic bags, which is a very sustainable material. The bins also have a very cool “front-loader” design, which makes the contents easier to turn.
All and all, the ’09-’10 E.A.C. had a very productive year.
- Zack C.
‘09-’10 E.A.C. Member