Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sprouts of Hope: New England Roots & Shoots Youth Summit

Learning Why To Use Reusable Water Bottles

By Eve

On Saturday, November 14 the Sprouts of Hope went to the annual Roots & Shoots Youth Summit in Boston. At the start, Sally Sharp Lehman, who directs the New England chapter of Roots & Shoots, talked about the Jane Goodall Institute, specifically its Africa program and how it is working and planning to take care of more and more orphaned chimpanzees.

Awards were also presented to regional Roots & Shoots groups as a way of showing appreciation for the efforts they made during the year. For the second year in a row the Sprouts of Hope were recognized as the “outstanding group” in the New England region, and this year our adult leader, Melissa, was named the region’s “Outstanding Group Leader.”

Throughout the rest of the day, we went to our various workshops. And during the lunch break, John Taguiri, a photographer and artist who has partnered a lot with us on projects, took photos of all of the kids who came to the Youth Summit.

John set it up a mini-photo studio at the summit so the people would be shown kicking away plastic water bottles while holding a reusable water bottle. And they would be standing on top of the world. It looked really cool. You can see what it looked like when Lilly posed for the picture.

Lilly, Eliza, Risa, and I went to a workshop called “Drop of Hope - Bottled Water and Our Public Water System.” This workshop inspired me to not drink bottled water. We learned that all bottled water is really just tap water that is purified. Then, it is sold for around $1.75 a bottle, when you could be getting almost the same water for a few cents at home. But when you are drinking water at home, you aren't putting plastic into the landfills, or the ocean.

There is a giant island of trash in the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is an island of floating plastic and debris that is two times the size of Texas. It is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean right now, but it's heading toward Hawaii. Since it is in the middle of the ocean, it's nobody’s property, so it's nobody's responsibility to clean it up. About 86% of plastic bottles go into the landfills or the ocean. Only 14% are recycled. Here’s a link to a slideshow about this enormous Great Pacific Garbage Patch:


And there is a Web site, http://www.greatgarbagepatch.org/ where you can learn more this ocean garbage patch and also about ways to make people aware of how to stop producing so much garbage by throwing away so many plastic bottles.

We also learned about the water that gets sold in plastic bottles and how companies get it. Usually companies go into small towns that can’t afford to or aren’t strong enough to push them out. Sometimes there will be many days when the water supply for the citizens runs out, while the water factories are still pumping water out of the ground. Then, they bottle it up, which takes a lot of energy, and ship it to stores, which also requires energy, and then they sell it.

The main problem of bottled water, though, is the water itself. The people who spoke to us said that the bottles send chemicals into the water when you leave water in the bottle too long or when you reuse the bottles. Also, we were told that only one person checks the clean-ness of these companies’ water; she has other jobs, too, which means that her mind isn’t even fully into the job. As for tap water from your homes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – along with local water departments, like ours in Cambridge, MA – oversees keeping the public water supply healthy. If the Food and Drug Administration – the government agency that checks bottled water – finds anything in this water, the company of the dirty water just has to slip it off the shelf. They don't have to tell anyone. Also, any plastic that goes into the ocean can be eaten by fish, then we catch the fish, and we eat the fish along with any plastic that is in the fish.

Of course, I am just reporting what we were told in this workshop. We should do our own research and see what we find out about the business of putting water into plastic bottles. To learn more about the bottled water, you can go to www.empowerbrown.org/blog/ to find out what students at Brown University are doing to try to help the environment on their campus by trying to get students there to stop drinking water out of plastic bottles. Or you can go to dropofhopenews.blogspot.com for information and news about water, especially bottled water.

Even if you don't have time to do any research, you can at least go out and buy a reusable water bottle. They might be expensive to buy, but in the long run using one will save you money and your health.

Toward the end of the day the Sprouts (except for Maya, who went to a workshop about the treatment of greyhounds) went to a panel where Lilly and Kaya talked about things we are doing to try to help people save energy and help the earth. And we learned from others who talked about projects like working to make the roof of their school building green and going to the statehouse to meet with legislators about global warming.

Watch and listen on YouTube to Lilly and Kaya talk about some of the Sprouts’ energy-saving projects.


It was a very inspiring day for all of us who were at the Youth Summit.
And remember, think outside the bottle!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sprouts of Hope: Kids and Environmental Issues

Telling Others About What We Do

By Lilly

My Uncle Ben teaches a college class at Lesley University about teaching. In mid-November, he asked me to come speak about the environmental activities I have participated in throughout my life so his students could learn about how kids get involved with environmental issues. This was not a Sprouts of Hope event, but many of the things I talked about had to do with the Sprouts.

While a lot of what the Sprouts do is related to the environment, sometimes we do projects that help other people -- like when we went to a Mission Hill School as part of a Roots & Shoots service project on Martin Luther King, Jr. day earlier this year. There we spent time cleaning a classroom, as you can see in this photo.

At Lesley, my uncle's class was small, but the students had lots of questions. They wanted to know how I got interested in doing these kinds of activities and hear about the recent projects I have done, and many other things. I told them about our Kill-A-Watt project -- which is a book the Sprouts are creating to help kids and their parents use a Kill-A-Watt meter to find out how to save energy in their homes. We are planning on putting our book and a Kill-A-Watt meter together in packets and donating them to the Cambridge Public Library. Then, families can borrow this kit just like they borrow books.
You can see some of the drawings we are thinking about using on this book's cover.

I also told this class about the 2nd grade Roots & Shoots group we are helping at another Cambridge public school. And I let them know about how the Sprouts were involved with getting the composting program started at our school. And we are trying to get other schools in Cambridge interested in doing composting in their cafeterias.

I came away from this event realizing how much we have all done in the past few years! It made me feel really good about myself and our group and all the work we have done.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sprouts of Hope: Keeping A River Healthy

Cleaning Up Along the Mystic River

By Maya

On Sunday, October 4th, two members of the Sprouts of Hope – me and Eliza – participated in the Roots & Shoots’ Mystic River clean up. Cambridge, the city where we live, is part of the the river's watershed, so it was fun to be doing something that helps the river and our community.

When we started, Beth Meserve, who works with MyRWA (the Mystic River Watershed Association) told us about efforts to keep the river clean and then showed us how she tests the water for various things. In one test, we used PH strips to find out the acidity of the river’s water. We did other tests on water samples to learn about the levels of nutrients and bacteria in the water. She also told us about how volunteers have been collecting water samples every month at 15 locations along the Mystic River -- and testing them -- since 2000. (You can learn more about how MyRWA keeps the river healthy at http://www.mysticriver.org/criver.org/.)
Watch and listen -- on YouTube -- as Beth tells us about taking care of the river and Eliza and I do some tests.

The water turned out to be pretty clean and healthy, but there was still a lot of trash in and around the river -- and that was what we wanted to clean up. When trash falls into the river, it contributes to make the river less healthy.

We put on boots and gloves grabbed some trash bags and headed of to start the clean up. We found a lot of trash on the streets and parks, so we ended up cleaning more than just the river.

There were bottles, paper, cigarettes, glass, empty bags of chips, toys, wrappers, straws, cans, and even a tire stuck in the ground. One person found a bike at the bottom of the river. When the clean-up was over, we had so many trash bags filled with trash. We ate donuts and muffins until all the clean-up groups returned.

Then each of us wrote a sentence on a strip of paper about why we were here or what the river means to us. Eliza wrote: "I came because rivers are important." And I wrote that "I hope this river will always be clean." We did this activity so we could help the river and so others could learn about why the Mystic River is so special and why it should be kept clean.

Some people in the neighborhood thanked us for cleaning up their river, and if felt good to help. I hope that the Sprouts can do another river clean up sometime.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sprouts of Hope Share Lessons About Composting

Celebrating School Gardens, Talking about Compost

By Risa

On Saturday, October 3rd, the Sprouts of Hope participated in the City Sprouts School Garden Celebration. The event was a little slow starting because it was raining so hard, and all of the exhibits had to be set up inside instead of outside as we’d hoped. Once the celebration got going, it was a lot fun.

We were asked to represent our school, King Open, which last year became the first school in Cambridge to do school-wide composting in the cafeteria as a part of the Department of Public Works’ Food to Flowers program. So we designed activities for kids that would educate them about composting, in general and at our school.

One activity gave kids the chance to sort what can and can't be composted. We had three colored baskets, and each of us had drawn two things – either food or utensils or other things related to eating – and we’d laminated them so kids could decide which basket to put them in. The baskets were labeled as what can be composted at home, what can be composted at school, and what can't be composted. The point of the activity was to help the kids understand what can be composted in different situations.

We also created a big bubble-lettered page for kids to color. It said:

We want composting at our school.

We're hoping they take these colorful posters to their schools and put them on the walls so that everyone there starts thinking about wanting to have composting happen at their school. The kids really enjoyed coloring, and they – and their parents – seemed enthusiastic about the idea of composting.

Dr. Jeffrey Young, who is the Superintendent of the Cambridge Public Schools, stopped by at our table. We sent him an invitation so we were really glad he decided to come. Since he’s in his first year in Cambridge, we told him in our invitation about how the Sprouts of Hope had testified at the school committee about replacing polystyrene trays because they are bad for the environment. And we let him know how talking about the trays then led to our school, King Open, becoming the pilot program for composting in school cafeterias in Cambridge. He seemed to like the idea of composting at schools in Cambridge and was glad to hear that we were making it work so well in King Open.

At one point Fred Fantini, who is a member of the Cambridge School Committee and one of the people who supports our effort to make the school cafeterias more eco-friendly, stopped by to our table. And some of the Sprouts had their picture taken with him and with Christine Ellersick, who works at the New England Roots & Shoots organization and is always ready to help us.
We also showed the kids and parents who came to visit our table where the food waste from our school's cafeteria goes to be turned into compost.

Even though it rained and we had to be inside, the City Sprouts celebration was lots of fun and we hope we convinced a lot of kids – and parents – in Cambridge to want to start doing composting at their school. For kids at King Open, it’s now just part of what we do. And that’s cool because we’re helping the earth by using our food waste to make really good soil with the things we might otherwise throw away.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Compost: From Our School Cafeteria to the Farm

Seeing How Composting Works -- Up Close and Personal

By Eliza

On a weekday afternoon in September, the Sprouts of Hope went on an exciting but smelly field trip. We travelled by car to visit the compost farm where our school's food waste goes after we sort it into barrels in our cafeteria. Meryl Brott, who works in recycling at the Department of Public Works in Cambridge and helped us get our composting program going at King Open, arranged our visit and came with us to the farm.
The compost farm is located in Hamilton, Massachusetts, which is northeast of Cambridge, and it has been running for more than 20 years. The farmer, Nate, was kind enough to give us a very detailed and informative tour of the compost farm.

Here is something new that we learned on our visit:
15 years ago, this compost farm produced 60 cubic yards of compost a year. Now, it produces 25,000 each year. We figured out that means that in 15 years there has been a 415.66 percent increase in how many cubic yards of compost are created per year!

At the farm, they use bulldozers to mix around the compost. They have a big workshop where they keep all of their diggers and materials. There are huge piles of compost outside, but there are also huge buildings filled with indoor compost. One building was entirely filled with a kind of compost called “enhanced loam,” which is a compost/topsoil mix used to grow grass. Its quality is so high that it costs $30 per cubic yard, which is really expensive! Another type of compost that the farm makes is a mixture good for gardening that they call Sweet Peet. Sweet Peet is a composted, aged horse manure similar to mulch.

We drove out in the farmer’s truck to the back part of the farm where a lot of the composting takes place. Most of the compost piles are set in windrows, which are long rows of compost that provide more air and oxygen so that the composting happens faster and the piles are less likely to catch on fire.

Nate carried a huge and very long thermometer with him and every once in a while he’d stick it in one of the piles and show us the heat being generated from the compost pile. Often the thermometer would tell us that on the inside of the pile the temperature was pretty high. [This photo shows the thermometer when it first was put into the pile, and then we'd watch the needle move as the temperature got hotter.] It’s the heat and energy generated by the composting that helps to move the process along. Sometimes we'd see steam coming out of the piles.

The compost farm staff constantly use big machines and diggers to flip the windrows. There are four or five of them next to each other, with space in between to make the flipping easier. These piles take four to five months to fully turn into nutrient rich dirt. Once the compost makes it through its last windrow, it goes into this huge green machine that does the final processing. From there, it heads up, up, up, until it gets tossed out on to the top of the pile that is the final product.

We also found some items -- a plastic shoe and a noncompostable fork -- that should not have been put into the compost stream in the first place.
The most important thing we learned, though, is how important it is to compost whatever can be composted. Before the trip, we didn't know that it costs half as much money in the long run to compost food and yard waste than to send this waste to a landfill where they will rot the “wrong” way. People are paying a lot of money to throw food and yard waste (since these are the two largest types of waste that could be composted) into landfills when they could be saving nearly twice as much money by composting them. This would turn their waste into something useful, produce really good dirt that others can use to grow things, and help to save the earth.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cambridge Science Festival: The Sprouts of Hope Exhibit

Spreading the Word: Energy Efficiency

By Lilly

On a Saturday at the end of April, the Sprouts of Hope had an exhibit in the Cambridge Science Festival. It was designed to educate people – adults and kids – about energy and how to use it efficiently and save money and the planet by doing so.

As part of our display, we used Kill-A-Watt meters to show how much energy different appliances use. With the help of John Taguiri, who also photographed us posing as the Statue of Liberty holding as the torch an energy-efficient CFL light bulbs, we set up an interactive exhibit so we could easily compare the energy use of fluorescent lightbulbs to regular ones. When people stopped by, we’d ask them to guess how many CFLs it would take to equal the energy used by one incandescent bulb. And then we’d show them. Often they were surprised by what they saw.

Also, by cooking chocolate chip cookies – that were snapped up by hungry kids whenever they were cooked – in a toaster over, we were able to demonstrate how much energy it uses to do things like cooking. The biggest hit, however, was a hair dryer; we plugged it in and turned it on high and people were amazed at how much energy it uses. As they saw the Kill-A-Watt meter leap to more than 1,000 on its register, a lot of them said they’d think twice about drying their hair that way.

We also created a cool patchwork quilt. Each of us made drawings of various renewable energy sources. We put those drawings on a piece of green felt and those patches were placed on it. This quilt hung behind our exhibit. We also put a bit of information about these forms of renewable energy on matching felt pieces; when kids came to our table, they could see what form of energy they wanted to learn more about and match it with the colored felt piece that had the information on it. Let me share one example:

On our quilt, we had a picture on a light purple piece of felt that showed what it looks like to heat a building using Geothermal Energy. On the matching felt patch, we wrote: Geothermal heat pumps use the temperature underground as a source of energy. They use 25 to 50 percent less electricity than conventional heating.

Other pictures and words told about bike riding and solar energy, wind energy and how to charge your cell phone in a way that saves energy. (Unplug the charger when you aren’t using it.)

In the other half of our display, we held an “educational” raffle. For a child to get a raffle ticket, they had to play a quick game in which they answered a few multiple choice questions about energy. The game they did depended on their age. Some used pictures; some had only words. Once they did that, they got to put their ticket in the jar for one of three kids’ prize baskets with a selection on stuffed animals and CDs, that were donated by NStar.

For an adult, to get a raffle ticket, they had to fill out a pledge card sharing ways they said they would work to save energy.
Here are a few examples of what people wrote on these cards that began with the words “I pledge to:”

· Fix my bicycle and start riding it more than driving my car to use less fossil fuels and reduce my carbon footprint.
· Turn off lights that aren’t being used.
· Turn down the water heater.
· Add insulation to walls and attic.
· Continue replacing bulbs with CFLs.
· Keep my air conditioner about 70 degrees or warmer in the summer and at 65 degree in the winter.
· Compost all my food scraps
· Help my grandchildren with good conservation habits early.
· Use less water.
· Shut off TV when no one is watching it.
· Not use the clothes dryer in the summer more than once a week.
· Get a Prius.
· Use less electricity at home and work.

Once they’d made their pledge, they could put their raffle ticket in a jar for one of two energy efficiency kits (donated by NStar and Dominion Energy) or a gift certificate to Greenward, a local environmentally friendly store that has been a great friend and supporter to the Sprouts of Hope. Last year, Greenward also donated a raffle prize when we did a different exhibit at the Cambridge Science Festival. This year, Tags Hardware, another neighborhood store, also lent us a display meter that we used to show people how to set up the Power Cost Monitors to figure out how much energy they are using in their homes, just like we did in our project with NStar.

The festival last for four hours – and this was a very long time for all of us to be talking and explaining things about energy to the many families who stopped by, not to mention keeping track of all of the raffle prize games. Even though there were a lot of us there, it still was tiring to explain again and again to all the new people who stopped by how fluorescent lightbulbs are better for the earth than incandescent bulbs and answer other question about how to use energy more efficiently. But it was worth it when every once in a while, a little kid would go “Hey Mommy! Let's buy the swirly ones instead of the regular ones! They save the earth!”

Climbing Walls, Selling Food

Even before the Cambridge Science Festival ended, we were on our way to MetroRock in Everett, an indoor rock climbing facility where every winter we go to celebrate our time together as Sprouts of Hope. And some of us also taking climbing classes there.

When the folks at MetroRock heard that we do a bake sale/food sale every year to raise money to support causes – local and international – that we believe are a part of the Roots & Shoots mission, they invited us to hold do it during a fundraising climbing event to raise money for cancer research and the Boston-based Jimmy Fund for kids with cancer. So a couple of the Sprouts decided to climb (to raise money for the Jimmy Fund) and we also helped with the bake sale/food sale.

Another wonderful partner of ours, Taza Chocolate, which makes organic chocolate from beans they get in the Dominican Republic through a cooperative farming community and does so in a building very near to our school, donated an assortment of their chocolate bars and we did a raffle for those at MetroRock.

It was fun doing this climb and bake sale – and tiring, after our long day at the festival already. But we raised about $250.00 that night for our effort. By climbing, we also raised money for the Jimmy Fund. These funds, combined with some we’ve raised in different ways, we will give away after we have time to meet and discuss where we’d like the money to go. One place for sure: The Sprouts of Hope Fund to enable kids who don’t have the resources to start a Roots & Shoots group to be able to do so.

Take a look on the right hand column of our blog for more information about the Sprouts of Hope Fund – with a link letting you know how to contribute to it and another link showing us on Facebook with a message to encourage people to donate to this cause. We hope you will.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Peace Means to Me: A Photography Exhibit

Seeing What Peace Means to Kids

By Mia

A little while ago, the Sprouts of Hope had the chance to go to the opening of "What Peace Means To Me" at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester. This collection of photographs was taken by Roots & Shoots members who attended a workshop on this project at the Roots & Shoots New England Regional Youth Summit that we went to in the fall. One of the Sprouts, Maya, attended that workshop and she became one of photographers involved with this project. It was fun for us to go with Maya to this event and be able to see her three photographs along with all the others.

Here's a picture of Maya with Banafsheh Ehtemam, who is with the Boston Photography Center and worked with Maya and the other Roots & Shoots kids to create this exhibit.

We were really excited to go to the celebration for this show. It was very interesting to see how each young photographer expressed what peace meant to him or her through their photographs. They wrote words to accompany their pictures, so it was fun to read what they thought about in taking the pictures for this project. The pictures they chose for the exhibit ranged from images in nature to groups of friends to a collection of hands. Each photographer had a different and unique style that was reflected in their pictures and writing.

Maya wrote about her photos, which you can see after her words:


Recess can be a tough time for kids. Sometimes their friends want to lay with someone else or they start a game and don’t include the others. I wanted to capture moments when little kids show what it feels like to be a friend. To me peace is being a good friend.

After everyone spent time looking at the photographs and talking with some of the kids who took them, we gathered in one of the museum’s rooms for a presentation. Paula Tognarelli, the executive director at the Griffin, told us that she was delighted to have this photography project shown at the museum. Then Banafsheh Ehteman reminded us of the power of art as a way of communicating with people throughout the world. She also let us know that there will be more art and photography projects like this one through Roots & Shoots. Then Sally Sharp Lehman, the director of New England Roots and Shoots, spoke about the New England chapter’s “Peace Through the Arts” campaign through which kids have used artistic expression as a way to send images of peace and hope to children in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here’s a video of Banafsheh and Sally telling us about these projects.

We then watched an amazing video celebrating Dr. Jane Goodall’s 75th Birthday. You can see it at: http://vimeo.com/3202137?pg=embed&sec=

To close the ceremony, one of the photographers, Khalifa Stafford, who is a member of the New England Youth Leadership Council, read a poem she’d written to go along with her photographs. Here are some words from her poem:

How can you love anyone,
If your family was never there to teach you
The meaing of love?
Or simply, how to love?

A person who’s never had a family
Must have never experienced happiness.
They must feel lost, or lonely.

When I think of a person at peace,
I think of them as being with their family.
When I think of me at peace,
I see myself with a complete, happy family.

This was a really cool event and another time that we were able to meet and talk with other New England Roots and Shoots groups. It was also another example of how even though we are young we can do great things like have photos end up in a museum.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sprouts of Hope: Illuminating Energy Efficiency

Statue of Liberty -- Displaying a Different Torch

By Jane
On a recent night, the Sprouts of Hope did something we hadn’t done in a while. All seven of us got together and did a photo shoot. No, it wasn’t like a photo shoot for a magazine. Yes, it was fun. And yes, it had a specific purpose – to use with our exhibit about energy efficiency that we’re doing at the Cambridge Science Festival on Saturday, April 25.

For the past few months, we’ve been designing our exhibit for this science festival. John Tagiuri, a photographer who cares a lot about energy and environmental issues and partnered with us two years ago at the Cambridge Science Festival, kindly offered to do a photo shoot of us as Statues of Liberty -- only we'd be holding a fluorescent light bulb instead of a torch.
It’s a fun image -- and we had a lot of fun creating it, but it's also meant to illuminate the need to reduce energy use. We hope this image gives people who see it a reason to think more about choosing more efficient ways of using energy, including the appliances they use in their home. By holding up a fluorescent light bulb – and wrapping ourselves in the American flag – we think the photos will catch people’s attention and get them to really think about how they can make energy changes in their daily lives.

John took similar pictures of us as energy-efficient Statues of Liberty a few years ago, and we used those to decorate our exhibit at our science festival that year. Now that we’re older and we’ve added some new Sprouts members, he thought it would be a good idea to do the photo shoot again. And it was fun to be partnering with him again, too; he’s also going to be with us again at the festival this year, helping us demonstrate to people a lot of things about measuring energy use. We’ll probably put the photos John took of us on the wall in back of our exhibit – where a patchwork quilt we are designing with pictures and messages about renewable energy will also hang. Or maybe we’ll tape them to the front or side of our table. We’ll have to see when we get there that day.

It was super fun doing these photos with John. Each of us had the chance to be a Statue of Liberty – and we helped each other to wrap the flag around our body and put the crown on our head. When it was my turn, I didn’t know what was more peculiar – that my robe was an American flag or that the crown on my head was spongy. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was having fun doing this together – and the message we hope our photos will give to those who visit our exhibit.

Here's a Statue of Liberty photo with all of us in it:

We hope you'll come to our exhibit – Smart Energy: Measuring What We Use – on Saturday, April 25th, from noon until 4:00 at Kresge Auditorim at MIT. Check it out by following this link:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sprouts of Hope: Greening Our School

Composting Gets Launched at King Open

By Maya

Two years ago the Sprouts of Hope, a Roots & Shoots group in Cambridge, MA, went to city's school committee to tell them why we thought we should stop having to use polystyrene lunch trays at our school. The members of the committee seemed very interested and listened to what we had to say. We wrote them a thank you note to tell them how much we appreciated them listening to our ideas and asked them again about changing the trays. About a month later, we went back to talk to them again -- and this time we read our thank you note --and then they passed a motion to require the superintendent to look for environmentally friendly alternatives to how we were using the trays in our cafeteria.

The Superintendent created a committee that looked at all the different possibilities -- from using dishwashers in each school to wash reuseable trays to purchasing ones that would be able to turn into compost. After looking at price of compostable trays and evaluating the other options by how they would affect the environment, the committee decided to start a pilot composting program for food waste at our schools. When our school shows that it works, they will start to teach other schools how to do it, and eventually the idea is to be able to eat off of the kind of trays and use the kind of spoons and forks that we can also throw into the compost barrel.
To prepare for the composing program we had meetings after school on Thursdays. Two of the Sprouts of Hope -- Kaya and me -- were able to go to all the meetings, and some of the others went to some of them when they didn't have other activities. There were also three other kids from the afterschool environmental program called Cambridge Can, and one of the custodians at the school who has been helping us with our Waste Free Lunch days.

Here's a picture of two of the Cambridge Can members on our first day of composting.

Our science teacher Donna Peruzzi was always there to help us come up with ideas for how to get other kids really excited about the program. And here's a picture of her using the compost barrel in the cafeteria.

And we worked with Meryl Brott, who is the new recycling director for the city of Cambridge. Then, there was Randi Mail, who directs the city's Department of Public Works, and Jim Maloney, the COO for the Cambridge School Department. At some meetings, people like Jack Mingle, who heads the Cambridge schools' food department, and Jose Wendel and Dawn Olcott from the Cambridge Health Alliance joined us.

You can see pictures of Randi, below on the right, and Meryl, on the left, when they were helping us to do the composting that first day.
It was cool to think that because of what the Sprouts of Hope and two other kids from King Open had said to the school committee, we were now meeting with adults who are in charge of big departments in the school and in the city. And they were asking us for ideas about how to make this happen at our school!!! At one point they asked us to come up with an idea for a composting mascot, and so we talked about it, and then one day I did a pencil drawing of a worm wrapped around an apple core. I sketched the design and gave it to Jack Mingle one night when we went back this fall to talk with the Cambridge School Committee about the composting effort He said he liked it, and before I knew they'd taken my design and made it a cartoon-like mascot!!!

To get every one to feel excited about being the first kids in the city to do a composting program at a school, we planned to do two assemblies; one would be for kids from kindergarten to the 4th grade and the other for 5-8th graders. We planned them for the morning of the day when composting would begin -- our hope was to let all of the kids know what composting is, why it matters that we do it, and how to do it. Then we felt like it was really important to find ways to inspire them to want to do it.

During the assemblies Meryl Brott spoke about how it would work in the cafeteria and she did a great job of explaining how composting helps the environment. (It keeps a lot of waste out of landfills, and when food is put into landfills it gets buried in lots of trash and gives off methane gas which is really bad for global warming.) You can watch a movie we made about the day, and it shows how Meryl explained how composting helps animals -- and the kids loved seeing the animals on the screen.

The younger kids got to see a slide show that the Sprouts of Hope had made of students at King Open bringing eco-friendly containers and recycling their polystyrene trays during Waste Free Lunch days on days when we tried doing them at our school.

They also got to see Meryl and Randi do a demonstration of how to compost. For the older kids, after Meryl spoke, we showed a fun video that the Cambridge Can kids (you saw Eve and Brianna's picture earlier in the blog entry) made about all the trash we throw away at King Open and showed how easily we could reduce it and why it matters that we do. Next we played an inspiring “Yes We Can” video of President Obama speaking and singers performing that was put together by Will.I.Am. You can watch have fun watching it, too, on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY

After that video played, a picture of “Martin Luther King” came up on the screen and a student, in voice that sounded a bit like his, gave us a message about how proud he was of us for doing something to make a positive difference in the world. (You can hear this on the YouTube movie, too.)

At lunch that day we became the first school in Cambridge to compost at school, and it went REALLY, REALLY well!!!! There were banners and posters in the cafeteria and notices were sent home to let families know it was happening.

The kids poured their liquids into the white bucket, and they put their food into the yellow bucket, trash into the black barrel, and their tray into a big bag that will take them to the place where they get recycled.

Everyone got a sticker saying, “I compost my school lunch because I care.”

We had student monitors who'd been trained to help other students and they got to wear aprons with our mascot on the front. They gave the kids good hints about how to put their waste in the right buckets. My mom took pictures and videos of the kids composting and saying how excited they are about doing this! When you watch the YouTube video about our first day -- you can find the link above -- and you'll get a good sense of how excited everyone was about doing the composting.

I knew that it would go well because the grown-ups in our school -- like Principal Tim -- and those from other places like the Department of Public Works helped us to be sure it did. But I didn’t think that it would go that well!! And Principal Tim said at our assembly how kids can be the ones who have good ideas and why it's important for grown-ups to listen to their ideas and find ways to help to make them happen. This is what happened with this idea -- since it started with kids talking about replacing the trays and ended up with us doing composting as a first step.
Here is a link to a Cambridge Chroncle article about the composting effort at King Open and it tells about how the Sprouts of Hope were involved in making it happen:
I hope the spirit of composting doesn’t go away so that our pilot program will go smoothly throughout the year. When that happens, then we know it will work at other schools in the future! And when it works at other schools, too, we will be that much closer to being able to replace the polystyrene trays with ones we can toss into the compost -- and that will be a very happy day, too!!
We've also learned that some kids at the Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, our city's high school, have started a Compost Club. From March 2nd through March 6th, some of the club's members, such as Jonah Vorspan-Stein and Eliza Cohen, who went to King Open, moved from table to table to collect food scraps and paper waste. While doing so, they explained to students how composting works and why it's important to do. A story in the school's newspaper says within a year the Compost Club hopes to establish permanent compost bins in the cafeteria and do more trial weeks of composting in the meantime. It also says that the club hopes to have assemblies and presentations about composting. We say "Go For It," and we hope it happens soon at your school, too.