Lower School Composting Revitalizes Sustainability Work

  • Voices
Lower School Composting Revitalizes Sustainability Work
Steven Mercado, Associate Head of Lower School

In the first year of a partnership with CompostNow, Lower Schoolers team up with the Upper School Eco Club to reduce landfill waste and explore environmental sustainability.

Sustainability is a topic that has been important to Ravenscroft since well before my time here. Members of the Sustainability Committee in years past have led the school in critical sustainability efforts, many of which are being reimagined and revitalized today. 

One of these initiatives is supporting composting in the Lower School. When I first came to the Lower School in the summer of 2021, I wanted to lend my passion for sustainability initiatives to the school along with my partnership with a local company called CompostNow. The 2021-22 school year was a year of investigation and observation, as we considered how to best use CompostNow and how their service could best help the Lower School.

When we reopened the Lower School Dining Hall to our first- through fifth-grade students in the spring of 2022, we were able to get a glimpse at how composting could work in our dining hall. With more than 300 students using the dining hall daily, we knew it was important to implement logistics for waste management. 

After having strategic conversations with our partners at CompostNow, we came up with a plan to transition the Lower School into consistent, sustainable routines. 

A grid of photos showing students composting leftover lunch food in large black compost bins

Composting in the Lower School (clockwise from top left): first-graders Saahas Chaudhary and Reed El-Assi; signage that helps students identify what items can go in the compost bins; second-grader Reese Collins; kindergartener GiGi Hemphill in the Kindergarten Center. At top is second-grader Emmie El Mann.

PreK and Kindergarten

As a Lower School, we believe that interactive, hands-on learning starts at an early age. Our youngest Ravens in PreK and Kindergarten have been more than ready to begin understanding how to be environmentally conscious. They participate in our sustainability efforts in their classrooms. We supply bins for each classroom so that students can throw away their food scraps in the compost bin after snacktime and lunch. As kindergarteners eat together as a grade level often, they use one bin at a time. 

“Composting helps make the soil healthier!” Charlotte Coward ’36, a student in Crystal Garris’ PreK class, said.

Lower School Dining Hall

When we introduced our first- through fifth-grade students to the dining hall in the last spring, we noticed the amount of waste we were creating as a Lower School. This year we introduced five large composting bins that allow users to differentiate waste. One compost bin is placed near the tray and silverware dropoff so students can dispose of their food scraps at the end of lunch. Our partnership with CompostNow has decreased the amount of landfill waste we produce each day — and given students consistent practice separating compostable items from landfill waste. 

Cross-Divisional Partnership

In early January, our Lower School started partnering with Upper School science teacher Colby Morin and the Upper School Eco Club. These student leaders have been a great help in maintaining the sustainable routines of the Lower School and making sure that CompostNow receives our bins every week. Club members come by the Lower School each Tuesday afternoon to pick up bins in the faculty lounge and PreK and Kindergarten centers and dump their contents into the larger bins near our dropoff area. 

Chloe Fox ’24, Eco Club president, has led her group of student leaders in this partnership.

“I have absolutely loved working in partnership with the Lower School’s composting system. Knowing that I am able to make an impact in my community and the environment through the simple act of picking up compost, brings me pure bliss,” she said. “I look forward to the day when the entire Ravenscroft community participates in this amazing cause.”

The club shared this impact statement:

We, as the EcoClub, feel very passionate about our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, and we support efforts on campus to lower negative environmental impacts. When we learned of the composting efforts begun by Mr. Mercado and the Lower School team, we saw an opportunity to get involved and partner with them, and we want to eventually model our efforts in the Upper School after the example that Lower School has set with food-waste management. We are hopeful that the partnership between the Upper Schoolers and Lower Schoolers will produce further eco-friendly outcomes for our community in the future.

As we move forward, Ms. Morin and her AP Environmental Science students will be continuing their partnership with the Lower School by coming into classes and teaching our students what they have learned. 

Ravenscroft’s Lower School plans to continue to engage students in sustainable education and incorporate these initiatives as educational community opportunities. Composting and waste management is just the start of possible sustainable initiatives to come, that will connect our mission and core values to the needs of our students and the larger community. 

As Bryce Hayden ’32 said, “It’s important to compost to protect the planet and to make sure we don’t hurt the ocean!”

A group of friends pose and smile in the dining hall

Lower Schoolers enjoy their time in the dining hall, where a composting program encourages them to decrease landfill waste.