Monday, 2 March 2009

Monday 2nd March 09

Up ridiculously early in order to get out of the house at 8am, to get into Wigginton Primary School to start teaching on the dot of 9. It took me just 35 minutes to get there, and I was going quite slowly as I had a delicate load of minibeasts in my trailer, mainly in glass jars.

I had been invited by Ian, a trainee teacher, as the school were doing a 'green plants project' and he wanted to add to that with a topic on composting. So, he'd initially booked me to do three 45 minute sessions, and the school were so pleased about this that they invited me to do a further two... and offered me a significantly better fee.

My lesson plan was to start with asking the students if they had a pet. Most of the class in each instance put up their hand. I asked what the pet needed to have a happy healthy life, and I had laminated A4 flash cards for Food, Water, Bed and Exercise. The children mostly came up with Food first, and I brought in the idea of a mixed diet, and Water next. We eventually got round to working out the other two, and I made a bit of a thing about the exercise being to do with getting Oxygen into their system (see where this is heading?).

Then I suggested that some of them probably had a pet in their back garden which had similar needs, and asked those with a compost heap or pile to put up their hands. There were fewer people with compost heaps than pets. So then we went back to the 'Food' and I asked what compost heaps were fed with. Once we'd got half a dozen suggestions, I brought back the balanced diet concept, and got out the 'Compost Browns' and 'Compost Greens' cards, and I explained, using the suggestions just offered, about Carbon-rich and Nitrogen-rich, drys and wets, structural and putrescible items which compost heaps need to have to work well.

I revisited the 'Water' card, and explained about the water content of fruit and vegetables... and the most environmentally friendly way to add moisture to compost heaps, which is, of course, to wee on them. Much muffled laughter and some horrified expressions, but in each class there were a couple of people who knew someone who urinated on their compost heap (often a grandad!).

The 'Bed' card referred to the bin or container, and the Exercise (after I made them laugh with my impression of putting a compost heap on a lead and taking it for a walk) was about turning it to get maximum oxygen into it.

Then I asked them what living things could be found in compost heaps, and I passed round pots and tubs with two sorts of worms, centipedes, woodlice, slugs, snails, millipedes and springtails, and discussed spiders, beetles, flies/maggots, rodents, hedgehogs, amphibians, grass snakes, slow worms and dismissed rabbits, moles and, weirdly, jellyfish! I also showed them a lovely mouldy grapefruit which allowed me to enthuse about fungi... and also mention bacteria.

Finally, I did a recycling game where I had a pile of assorted rubbish and I asked what should be done with this, which allowed me to get the biodegradable nature of rubber bands into the frame, as well as drinks carton recycling, taking paper off food cans, landfill and pollution from landfills. All this in just 45 minutes... three times before lunch and twice after... quite full-on and very tiring.

I left at 3 after writing out an invoice, and dropped off the teaching resources at St Nicks, as Catherine is doing a York Rotters school visit tomorrow. Got home at 3.40, shortly before Gill and our youngest did. Very satisfying, but was knackered. And full-time teachers do this kind of thing five days a week, plus having to plan and mark, etc.

I emailed my LETS friends to say I wouldn't be coming to the meeting tonight, and I had a quiet evening. Enjoyed the last programme of 'It's Not Easy Being Green'.


Karen Gladys Henry said...

Wow, this was very interesting! You came up with some great ways to teach those kids, and I'm sure they'll remember it, and maybe someday, even compost! Yay for you! You deserve a holiday ;))

Compost John said...

Thank you Karen. I absolutely LOVE the subject, and know it inside out and back to front. I know that my enthusiasm rubs off on others.
I also learn from others... and the 'pet' concept wasn't my idea! Infact, the York Rotters 'Master Composter' format wasn't my idea either.
But I know that my enthusiasm and understanding of a)composting and b)how voluntary groups work have led to both these examples being successful.
Thank you for the compliment, feel free to use the ideas!
ps no time for holiday the planet's heating up and I've set myself the task of helping to prevent the worst of that...

Anonymous said...

Hiya John!

Sounds like some very positive sessions that you had with the kids! Nice one.

Did a similar thing at Heworth School last week, taking only my second ever assembly - after a 17 year teaching career!!

Had the kids remarkably mesmerised for nearly 20 mins - only to realise that they were staring at my finger which I had unknowingly slashed on something sharp and was dripping blood all over the floor!!!

And you're right!! It was indeed flaming hard work, 5 days a week, getting up at 5am to do marking!! Currently enjoying early retirement!


PS See you tonight at Carbon Detox. Bring sweets!!!!