Every Friday is pizza day on the Jemicy LMS campus. This means that, along with lunch, we get 20 boxes to dispose of.
While most of the boxes are recyclable (except those with food stuck to them), they are also eminently reusable. Dumpster diving for reusable project materials is a long-standing Jemicy tradition, but given the regular influx of this particular resource, we have begun to collect and warehouse the pizza boxes for our project-based classes. This adds to our efforts to collect other reusable cardboard, such as shoeboxes, egg cartons, and tubes, which are used for everything from dioramas to rock collections to the marble rollercoasters constructed by Y Group physics classes.
Upcycling means taking a material that has already been used in one way and reusing it in another so that its value increases. Cardboard is a particularly useful resource in STEAM-based classes where students experiment, solve problems and display concepts through engineering, construction, and art-infused projects. It is sturdy but flexible, able to be manipulated by kids of all ages.
In the past, pizza boxes have been used for dioramas, gliders, solar ovens, pinball and operation games, and numerous other designs.
This fall, the boxes have already been used in Star Group science to make lunar rovers, and in the JE science classes for building boats. You never know where cardboard may be upcycled next!
With last year’s compost added to the garden beds, we’re trying out some cool-weather crops. Brussels sprouts, swiss chard, and cabbage seedlings are getting a head start under row covers, while clover seed will establish a cover crop to help replenish the soil in other beds.
We’ve hired some assistants to help with Jemicy’s composting: red wigglers! As their name suggests, these worms are quite active, a trait that enables them to quickly break down compostable food waste into nutrient-rich soil for our gardens. We currently have two worm farms in operation: in Liz’s M Group homeroom, and in Emily’s science room.
Each of these indoor habitats is able to handle a small amount of compost daily, and we hope to transfer growing worm cultures to our outdoor compost bins very soon. Not only do these worms help us with composting; they are also a window into the unique life cycle of creatures we rarely see aboveground.
Jemicy LMS art teacher Nancy Curran walked into her room one day to find a dozen mannequin heads awaiting her. The unexpected donation sparked a project for her middle school art students: “Make an environmental statement.” The resulting group pieces utilized all manner of found and collected objects, giving voice to students’ feelings about the human relationship to the earth.
How can we reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging that we use?
I Group science classes approached this question by comparing the amount of packaging in two different potato chip bags: family and snack size. While snack size bags may seem more convenient for student lunches, is there a more sustainable alternative?
Groups of students dissected chip bags and calculated the total area of packaging for each variety. They discovered that snack bags produced four times the waste of using larger, family size bags whose contents could be distributed in snack-size reusable containers.
Students in the lower school worked this week to identify ways to reduce the amount of waste from lunches that ends up in our school trashcans. After discussing the options for different kinds of trash, we practiced sorting items into appropriate containers: trashcan, recycling bin, and compost.
This activity made it clear that packing small amounts of food in reusable containers (not ziplock bags) would reduce the most trash ending up in the landfill. Here are some tips from SuperKids Nutrition to help plan trash-free lunches.
Even better than recycling is making the effort to reuse materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Refillable water bottles can make an enormous difference in reducing the production and disposal of plastic, single-use water bottles. Some Jemicy homerooms have also committed to reusable plates and utensils for lunch events. Students in the lower school have participated in “trash-free” lunch exercises to help them make responsible decisions about bringing lunches with reusable containers. Faculty and staff are encouraged to bring their own coffee and tea mugs, or to use those available in the faculty room, rather than styrofoam single-use cups.
Jemicy has a long-standing practice of recycling paper, aluminum cans, and plastics. Our recycling contractor, Cockey’s Enterprises, collects single-stream materials from a dumpster located below the parking area. Every week, Star Group students circulate through the school, collecting recyclables from classrooms and offices and depositing them in the recycling dumpster.
If you are unsure about what can be recycled at Jemicy, please refer to this chart:
The top garden bed just above the boot garden is being converted to a fall/winter tree nursery. We are collecting this year’s seedlings, planting them in pots, and burying the pots in the garden bed to overwinter. So far, we have collected hickory, American holly, pawpaw, and tulip tree seedlings, and we hope to add many more species through the fall. These baby trees will be added to our reforestation project area below the playground.
This effort meets several sustainability goals: restoring native species to our campus, offsetting the trees we remove from forests through using paper, and learning about the natural history and ecosystem needs and benefits of different tree species.
What’s not to love about compost? You take old veggies, guinea pig refuse, shredded newspaper, wood chips, throw them in a bin and a year later, the mixture has been transformed by microscopic organisms into a thing of beauty. We have been composting on a small scale at Jemicy for years, adding refuse from the science room and a few classrooms to our two small composters, and then transferring the decomposed, nutrient-rich soil to our organic garden beds. This year in the Jemicy LMS, we hope to create a larger composting area near the woods to accommodate all of our lunch and garden compostables.
We continue to educate students and the adults in our school about what can and cannot be composted. Plastic straws, most definitely not.
Here is a handy guide from Clean Air Baltimore to help you decide: Compost, or send it to the landfill?