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Environment II: The Reason for Green

Note: It would be good for the camp director to contact the camp facilities to find out whether they want to keep the compost piles or to ensure that there are people in the area who can take the compost home. If not, find a place to donate the compost if no one can take it home or travel with it.

While learning how to build a compost pile, campers will apply learn about and discuss practical everyday ways they can become responsible stewards of the environment.

For this session you will need a trash can. It can be plastic or metal, big or small, to serve as the compost bin. There needs to be one for each small group. You will also need a hammer and a screwdriver for each group to punch holes in the bins. If necessary, someone can prepare the compost bins ahead of time for each group. You will also need composting materials (enough of the following for each group's compost pile): Garden soil, organic scraps from kitchen (egg shells, peels, etc), and manure. Finally, you will need seed to give each participant for their own home garden, either flowers or vegetables.

Intro to compost activity (5 minutes)
Making the compost bin (5-10 minutes)
Collecting kitchen and yard scraps (5-10 minutes)
Making the compost pile (10-15 minutes)
Main discussion points (5-10 minutes)
Sum Up and Challenge (5 minutes)

Campers will take home seeds to start garden and knowledge of how to build compost pile.

Introduction to Compost Activity
After an opening prayer, break up into small groups or combine a couple of groups for this project. The activity may be scaled down, depending on the capabilities of the campsite. Ask someone to recap what was discussed in Session 1 that morning. What was learned about our stewardship to creation?

What is compost?
Simply put, compost is decayed, organic plant matter that packs a powerful, nutrient-rich punch when added to your soil and plants. In complex scientific terms, compost is the result of aerobic microbes (oxygen-thriving bacteria and fungi) feeding on organic waste and breaking it down into a basic, wonderfully nutritious soil amendment.

Why are we composting?
About one-third of the space in landfills is taken up with organic waste from our yards and kitchens, just the type of material that can be used in compost. Composting is a way for us as stewards to responsibly care for the environment. If every household participated in composting, it would divert a significant portion of the waste stream from our landfills and water treatment facilities. If you combined composting with recycling cans, newspapers, and plastic, you could reduce your waste flow by almost 50%! Composting also saves energy because the waste is not transported as far for disposal. After we learn how to make compost, we will give you seeds to take home today so that you can discover the joy and blessing of being connected to creation. Knowing how to make a compost pile will not only drastically reduce the waste we produce, but will also provide rich, dark, earthy material which will improve the soil for your garden.

Making the Compost Bin
If possible, have all campers participate in building the bin and the pile. If there are too many campers for this to work, have volunteers come do each step.
1. Get the trash bin and turn it upside down.
2. Have volunteers punch holes all over the can to let the rotting materials inside breathe. The microbes that break down the peels and egg shells, etc., need air. You can make the holes by hammering a screwdriver through the sides of the garbage can.
3. Turn the can right side up.
4. Raise the can up off of the ground by placing it on several bricks or 2x4 pieces of lumber.

Collecting Kitchen and Yard Scrap
Send two small groups out on a race to collect organic materials for the compost pile. One group should head to the kitchen, and the other group should head to the camp grounds. Whichever group can collect the most in 5-10 minutes wins.
Suggested items from kitchen: coffee grounds and filters, tea bags (without staples) and leaves, veggie and fruit scraps, corn husks, crushed eggshells, hair from brushes, cereal, like oatmeal, bread and flour, leftover pasta, without oil or dairy-based sauces, rice, all-natural fibers, like cotton, shredded black and white newspaper and paper towels.

Suggested items from camp grounds/yard: chemical-free grass clippings, dry leaves, shrub and tree waste, sawdust and wood chips from untreated wood, straw and hay, dead plants and flowers, potting soil, and dead insects.

Note: Don't compost meat, fish, newspaper, cooked food, diapers, magazines, cat litter or any other fecal matter (dog or cat feces) besides manure.

Making the Compost Pile (small group)
Start your green and brown layering process within the bin, beginning with a layer of yard scraps; this will allow for proper circulation and drainage.
Moisten this layer with a sprinkling of water.
Put a layer of manure (cow dung) on top of the bottom layer.
Put about two inches of garden soil for the next layer.
Add a layer of kitchen scraps (collected previously).
Repeat the last three steps (manure, soil, scraps) for the next three layers.
Top off your new pile with garden soil to ensure an introduction of bacteria to your waste.

Maintaining the compost pile
It's helpful to turn the pile every 7-10 days to speed up the process of decomposition and composting. Other than that, you don't have to do anything. Nature takes care of decomposing and turning the pile into a rich, dark-colored soil. The compost takes several months to be ready. Once ready, it's a rich fertilizer for gardens and yards.

Main Points and Discussion (small group)
How is this activity related to what we discussed in Session 1 ("The Story of Stuff")? Composting is a way to cut back on the "stuff" we throw away/waste. It also has other environmental benefits, saves energy, and is all-natural.
How does composting reflect responsible stewardship of creation? (similar answers)
How is home gardening a way of responsible stewardship? growing our own food is healthy, safe for the environment, no chemicals or pesticides, it's local, etc., plus it connects us to the earth, to creation?
What are some other ways besides composting and gardening that we can become more responsible stewards of creation? (using organic products; buying local foods; cutting back on energy waste by keeping lights off, using energy-efficient appliances, etc; not buying products made for planned obsolescence; recycling; cutting back on the amount of advertising and TV that I watch; carpooling and using public transportation; cutting back on the amount of unnecessary "stuff" I buy; getting involved in my community to encourage environmentally-friendly policies and programs; etc)

To Sum Up and Challenge (small group)
Today we learned how to make a compost pile. I challenge you to create one when you go back home and encourage your family to utilize it. If it's easier, you could have your GOYA create one as a group for the church. I will give you some seeds that you can use to start a garden at your home or church. Once your compost is ready, you'll have natural organic fertilizer for your garden. Aside from the compost and garden, we've discussed other ways to become more responsible stewards of creation. These are ways we can take care of the planet and each other. As we all think about where our "stuff" comes from and where it goes, I challenge everyone here to take one or two of those suggestions and implement it in our own lives. In this way, we can work towards being better caretakers of what God has given us.

Close with a prayer.

Prepared by Mary Long