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THE NOSE KNOWS – Sedalia Elementary fourth graders Seth Thomas and Bailey Cartwright grimace as they get a whiff of their class’ compost bin behind the southeastern Graves County school.

Sedalia Elementary School fourth graders pose with one of their two composting bins behind the southeastern Graves County school. Their teacher, Keri Dowdy, and last year’s fourth graders won the Kentucky competition in the Disney Planet Challenge. The contest is designed as an opportunity for students to improve the environment, while they learn about it. Last year’s group grew the ingredients to make their own pizza and reduced cafeteria waste. This year’s class is following up on that effort by composting and teaching the practice to others. They call themselves “The Rot Squad.”

Teacher Keri Dowdy and her students have learned a great deal about the science of composting this school year. Not only have they read and studied, but they’ve put their ideas into practice and shared them with family, friends, and other students. The group hopes to make a difference in the environment and to win the Disney Planet Challenge in the process.

A year ago, Sedalia Elementary fourth graders took on the Disney Planet Challenge – a competition the world’s largest childhood entertainment brand sponsored. Not only did teacher Keri Dowdy’s students learn a lot about enhancing the environment, they did something about it. They grew their own ingredients to make their own pizza and led their school to be more environmentally friendly with cafeteria waste. …Oh, and they also won Kentucky’s Disney Planet Challenge and the right to represent the Bluegrass State in the national competition!

So, when this school year began, Dowdy’s new group of fourth graders decided to build on that success. They read and study, but their preferred way to learn something is to do it. So, student Alyxia Driver said, “We started composting.”

The entire class joined in explaining their project. “Composting is when you put things into a bin,” said Benjamin Phillips. “You need greens and browns and air and water. Most of the food in the cafeteria gets thrown away, but this helps reduce waste.”

 “Greens are fruits and vegetables – like fresh stuff,” added Nicole Taylor. “And, browns are dried grass, leaves, and dead stuff.

 “The fruits and vegetables put vitamins into it,” said Gracie Acree. “We have to find a good ratio of nitrogen and carbon. We put so many greens and so many browns so that it rots fast enough.”

 “Worms are helping the compost,” explained Karley McAdoo “We have red, wiggler worms.”

 “They’re having eggs and then babies, said Shelby Turner.

“We had to buy the worms,” noted Seth Thomas.

Sedalia Elementary fourth graders Seth Thomas and Bailey Cartwright grimace as they get a whiff of their class’ compost bin “Soil properties need enough water and air and we have to turn it to get the air flow,” said Ally Brown. “We’re doing this so that there’s not so much food getting thrown away. Our compost will help with the (PTO’s) new landscaping that they’re doing and we plan to help Shupe’s Nursery (a nearby business) with our composting, too.”

Sedalia just received a new outdoor classroom grant and the composting will help there as well. The class even put a small amount of compost in the classroom aloe vera plant.

“The compost froze,” said Kory Fulcher. “There were two composting bins outside. So, we decided to move one into the janitor’s closet because it’s heated in there. Compost heats up on its own, but we’ll measure the difference between the outside and the inside compost bins.”

Besides their own work, class members are sharing what they’re learning with family, friends, and neighbors. “We just want to spread the news,” explained Gracie Acree. “We let people know it’s easy to do and it’s fun.”

 “We put up some posters in the lunchroom that tell what we can compost,” said Sadie Fulcher. “And, we have this bucket in the lunchroom and we monitor it so the other kids know what to do, to put greens and browns in it.”

“We call ourselves the Rot Squad and our slogan is ‘Do the Rot Thing,’” noted Lillie Boyd.  “We made a Powerpoint and shared it with all the other classes to show what we were doing in the cafeteria.”

“We talked to a scientist in southern California on Skype,” said Jaron Hale. “We also talked with a Bowling Green magnet school that is composting. The scientist said it’s good to put rabbit pellets and egg shells in our compost. And, it’s good to insulate the compost when it gets really cold outside.”

“We have presented to the Site-Based Decision-Making Council and to the PTO,” said teacher Dowdy.  “And, during Sedalia’s Blue Ribbon School celebration, we presented to our guests, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Dennis Bega, who represented the U.S. Department of Education.”

Dowdy concluded, “Of course, we hope to do well with the Disney Planet Challenge, but whatever happens, it’s clear these kids have learned a lot and see the importance of composting.”


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