Monday, June 23, 2014

Fishing... Or Cutting Bait... in CompostLandia

I have been making soil for 6 years.

It all started back after my first year at Eagle Cove School.  I spent that year training my students what goes in paper recycling, what goes in co-mingled recycling, and what goes into composting. .As a Maryland "Green" School--that's what you do.  That's what we did.  You educated the youth--that younger population. With all of that (plus the extras like juice pouches that we upcycled with Terracycle), there wasn't much left for any kind in our class of "real trash."  I came home that summer, making salads galore, intent to live a healthy lifestyle of good food choices, and I was struck with a bit of an ethical/environmental dilemma.  I've composted at school--what the heck do I do with that green pepper innard?  I found myself incapable of throwing away "garbage" that was no longer garbage.  It was now compost.  Hence, "the dreaded Dabrowka bucket" (as it became known as at ECS) was born.

So.... for 6 years, I brought my li'l green camo bucket to school every Friday, to be weighed and emptied by some poor 5th grader (who probably got the short straw in the draw).  Being a home compost (that regularly carried the remnants of a newly-cleaned-out-fridge), it always surpassed the class composts of apple cores, napkins, and sandwich crusts.  Along those lines, it even surpassed the coffee-grounds & grown up lunches of the Teacher's Lounge compost bucket in weight, volume, stench, and sometimes even grosser things.  Many years, there was the educational discussion on the merits of garbage-ology (and all that you can learn) from just the Dabrowka Bucket.  It basically was urban legend 6 years in--and even sometimes the topic of 5th grade graduation speeches.

So.... here I am now.  My classroom is empty, my school is closed, the Fort Knox of compost lies awaiting the ability to make soil, without any kind of invitation to me to really come back and visit--as it is in the middle of changing guards & arms. I cannot make soil there, nor is my compost welcome anymore.  Fort Knox is mine no longer.  And yet, I have a 5 gallon bucket that's ready for delivery!

So.... what the heck do I do now?  I think I am at that proverbial crossroads called "fish or cut bait."  To compost or not to compost--that is the question.  In the interim, 6 years of habits die hard.  I have a very full compost bucket of 2 weeks' worth of food waste.  My 5-pound bucket keeps moving a little further on our patio, away from our back door.  Flies are hovering, wanting desperately to get in.  So I either need to go back to the idea of dumping food waste in our trash, leading to the dumping of post-dated leftovers in the landfill....or, I need to come up with a backyard composting plan.  Moving toward methane-production in the landfill isn't making this girl happy.  I'm starting to survey to see what might be worth the purchase.  No definitive decisions yet.  However, if you are an individual that holds some inside info on this subject, I'd be glad to learn more--so send forth any die-hard details & good ideas in the composting department!!

Until then, I am "mushing" food deeper into my 5-gallon compost bucket, making room for more & more....thinking longingly of Eagle Cove's School's Fort Knox composting heap while I try to figure out where to go from here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

School's Out For Summer!

Here is my disclaimer:

I have been on summer break for 2 weeks.  After a week of packing up my classroom in my now-closed-for-good school-I-love (and filling up garage with a bounty of boxes and double stacking my bookshelves in my house with chapter books), I'm officially on summer vacation.

Whoo hoo!!

Given that, I've been having a summer--well, sorta. We're still in the early stages over here.  I'm facing a house that's been largely been neglected the last 4 months while job searching. I'm finishing up a graduate level class for reinstating my teaching certificate. I taught a Professional Development half day on iPads at one of my old schools.  I'm starting to attend new teacher summer workshops for my new school this fall. Then too, there's the regular mom stuff.  But, I've also gotten the chance to hang out in my pool, and visit with one of my favorite colleagues I've ever taught with.  What a great way to share & exchange ideas--while catching up with a dear, old friend!!

Ergo...I've been Green Team absent as of late. Hence the disclaimer.

But luckily, I can back-post!

So... to all those teachers out there---here's a little note for you.  Hope you're eating it up!!  We earned it, and have deserved it!  Take advantage of it--each and every day!!  Cheers!

Image from

Image #2 from

Quote image from 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eco Schools Infomercial

I'm still riding the highs of our honor award of the Eco-School award at Eagle Cove School.  (I wrote about this in my June 8th post "A Great School Lives in It's Students Forever.")

Here are 2 videos that tell a little bit more about the Eco-Schools Program:

Photo from my camera at ECS's graduation! 

Eco School's Program video from

Eco-Schools USA video from

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Great School Lives In Its Students Forever

This week has been a big environmental week--both near and far, and far and wide within my heart:
  • Thursday, June 5th was World Environment Day. This is an annual United Nations Day to globally promote the importance of tending our planet.  They have a long history of spreading the message that every little action adds up to create world-wide waves that lead to change.  This year's theme is "Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level."  Check out the link to learn more about World Environment Day 2014.
  • Friday, June 6th was our last day of school at Eagle Cove School--complete with 5th grade graduation.  Typically there is glee in the hearts of students, teachers, and maybe even parents to "bring on summer!"  Yet, this year was a tad different, because it was THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL.  EVER!  The final graduation.  The end of an era.  The closing of a super, amazing, phenomenal environmental school. The Baltimore Sun wrote a very nice article about it Friday morning.   I've written about the upcoming closing many-a-times here.  The closing of a 58 year institution in our community...that time has finally arrived.  It was a beautiful day, which only added to the bittersweet-ness of the entire event.  We've had many special celebrations, both on a large & even small-scale family-front [we went canoeing off-shore of the school yesterday as a family].  We've had (& will have a few more) meals & gatherings as a staff, and a community gala event of alumni, board members, current and past families, friends, faculty, and students of the school.  The tears and tissues and memories have been many.  We will deeply miss this photogenic and authentic li'l Maryland "Green School" campus and community of ours.
  • Friday, June 6th also held another important environmental event.  Our Head of School, during the graduation ceremony, announced that yes, although our doors our closing, we not only received our 2nd four-year re-certification as a Maryland "Green School" this year, but we also were the recipients of another honor.  We also received the highest level--the international level--award issued from World Wildlife Fund/National Wildlife Federation's Eco-Schools.  62 other schools worldwide fly the flag that my "partner in green" and I are holding here.  It's definitely an odd sensation to be held in such environmental high esteem, yet to be a school that is ceasing to exist.  Such a high compliment to our program, our curriculum, and the entire culture of the school.  We could do all of that, yet despite all of that, the one thing we couldn't quite capture was financial sustainability to keep the school going forth.  Big sigh.  

As one of the graduating fifth graders wrote in his speech that he delivered on Friday:   "Do not cry for the loss, but smile because it happened." (Quote by Dr. Seuss.)  Thank you Eagle Cove School (formerly Gibson Island Country School) for happening, and for 7 amazing years of memories.  I will hold those memories of my students, my own children, and my crew of incredible ECS colleagues always dear to my heart.  May we all go forth to our new schools, spreading our wings like the eagles we're named after, and spreading what's in our hearts like 100 or so little "green" minions!  In many ways, it circles right back to the heart of the mission of World Environment Day.

World Environment Day Logo from

ECS School sign picture taken by Josh Hubbell

ECS Eco School Flag pic from my camera.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Goodbyes are Hard

Today in my 3rd grade class, we watched "Big Miracle"--Drew Barrymore's 2012 flick set in 1988 about 3 whales trapped in ice in Barrow, Alaska.  My kids in my class voiced yesterday that they were bummed we never watched that when we read the book "A Symphony of Whales" by Steve Schuch earlier in the year as the two are loosely related.  So today, we watched it and cheered for Fred, Wilma, and BamBam.

[Spoiler alert--both the book and the movie are phenomenal.]

Yesterday we did a scenic route walk around campus on the way to Spanish, via the greenhouse & the nature trail. We snacked on the wholesome goodness of sugar snap peas in the greenhouse. Why did we do all this? Because we could.  Because soon, we won't be able to.

Monday, the 5th graders went out on the Magothy River via canoes and spent the day, paddling away, learning about the sights and sounds they saw along the way.  Now THAT is a science class!

 Monday too, we had a graduation of sorts.  Not "the real" graduation, as that is yet ahead for our 5th graders, just a few days away.  But a commencement for the PreK--4th graders, a celebration (completee with certificates) of their years they spent at Eagle Cove School, here in our last week prior to closing after 58 years. During that semi-commencement, our Head of School spoke of our mission statement--how Eagle Cove School has been and IS a triumvirate of academic excellence, community involvement, and environmental stewardship.  She related us to "the 'greenest' school in Maryland."  It's hard to fathom, after that, that we only have 3 more days of school...ever.  It continues to beg the question over the last 5 months--how can something so good be closing??  Yet, numbers of kids and lack of enough tuition payments, over time, don't answer that question.

On Monday, smack dab in the middle of the commencement the Parents' Association whisked in to pay tribute to the teachers (all well and good if I didn't know I was still yet to give a surprise presentation to our Head.  Insert tears and "incoherent speech amidst tears" here!).  To each teacher the PA gave a print of the tree at the center of the school's driveway, with a fingerprint from each current child being a leaf on the tree.  Add in, they included a misty-eyed note on the back of a postcard with my daughter's artistic gift to our head when she learned of our closing.  There's a point when misty eyes turn into a true and total teary era, and it's somewhere between!!  It's hard to be so touched, so proud, so sad, and so feeling the loss all simultaneously.  Nowhere in my mind's eye did I think Monday would begin that way!!

So the countdown continues with Field Day and another day being the only things standing between now and graduation.  The 5th graders were mine 2 years ago.  Their speeches, no doubt, will make me both laugh and cry.

It's hard saying goodbye to someone and something you love.  Something so true and so good, and will be so missed.

Pics from:  my camera & ECS art work from Delaney  Dabrowka & Board of Trustee 
"Big Miracle" from