Winter Shells and Spring Compost

febwork14gWhen you have record-breaking snow, it’s a fine time to make fresh compost in Cleveland. If anything, it takes our minds off winter and moves us one step closer to the thaw.

On Wednesday, February 18, our group of Near West scientists took their composting workshop on the road. This time, they were joined by fellow classmates and several senior residents from St. Augustine Health Ministries. (see photos)

It’s always great to see these kids interacting with one another outside a typical classroom. One day a month, they hop on a school bus and travel down Lorain Avenue to join their elder neighbors for cards, puzzles and learning activities. This day was a little bit different.

Today, they were going to mix some spring compost and show their friends how they’ve been experimenting with zebra mussel shells. We began with a few introductions. Then, the students from Mr. O’Melia’s class were joined by the students from Mrs. Goodman’s class, and the two “senior and junior clusters” taught the residents from St. Augustine how to mix compost. febwork7g

It may seem like it’s a little early to start thinking about soil mixes and summer vegetables. But with spring green on EVERYBODY’S mind, this was a way to take the focus off the mounds of snow that have been piling up around Cleveland.

See, our Near West students are helping to mix these batches of compost so that seniors and refugee farmers who live in the Lorain Avenue neighborhood can grow vegetables and flowers. Our urban lot is adjacent to St. Augustine, and since it takes several months to get our compost ready for planting, we look for new opportunities to add to the pile and wait for the warm weather to do its thing.

In March, we will bring the grow lights we used in our Near West classroom last year over to St. Augustine. We will have another workshop where the students can teach the seniors how to plant seeds, and hopefully grow a variety of flowers, herbs or produce in small container pots.

We are grateful to our friends at NAPECA for making these workshops possible. Not only will students have a chance to teach others, it will give them an opportunity to stretch beyond the confines of a classroom.boatshowdisplay

Hey, Speaking of Friends  …

Special thanks to Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc. and the Lake Erie Improvement Association for supporting our project during The Progressive Mid-America Boat Show last month. We had a nice display and a lot of people interested in the environmental issues that are impacting Lake Erie.

brochurethumb2A few months earlier, Wayne State University and the Environmental Protection Agency served as co-partners for an educational handout we produced on zebra and quagga mussels. Through a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GRLI) grant, I was able to work with Lake Erie Waterkeeper to write and design a brochure about zebra and quagga mussels and their impact on Lake Erie. The brochures were distributed during the boat show, plus students from Near West also had an opportunity to use them in their workshop with the seniors.