Baldwin second-grader takes lead in composting
Last year, Riley Smith was upset with the waste she saw everyday when Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center students had their morning snack.
“All the fruits and vegetables we had that were not being eaten and were being wasted,” the second-grader said. “I decided to go to the principal and tell how much was being wasted.”
Riley also had an idea about how to make use of the waste to share with BESPC Principal Deb Ehling-Gwin — one she developed from watching the Disney Channel show “Friends for Change.”
“All the cast is doing composting and recycling,” she said. “I thought, ‘Hey, I can do that.’”
Riley wrote a proposal for her principal suggesting the uneaten fruits and vegetables be composted.
“She liked the idea so much, she dug the composting pit that weekend,” Riley said. “Without her, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Ehling-Gwin said Riley not only developed the idea, but after school each day she carries the waste buckets, which can grow to as many of five on days they fill up with banana peels or the unpopular snacks like little tomatoes, to the composting pits a block from the school’s back doors. Riley’s done that throughout the school year.
“She’s a great kid,” Ehling-Gwin said. “She’s responsible, reliable and very articulate.”
At Riley’s suggestion, the school also is now recycling the plastic cups the daily snacks are served in, the principal said.
Riley’s mother, Kelley Bethell-Smith, said her daughter could use the school’s rotating barrel composter kept near the back doors on bad weather days. Still, she, too, has been impressed with Riley’s dedication.
“I’m really proud of her, because I thought, ‘I don’t know how this is going to work when it’s snowing.’ But she’s been a real trooper about it,” she said.
Riley will move down the street next school year to the Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate School, but Ehling-Gwin has not intention of letting her composting work die. Her goal is to make the effort a teaching tool for BESPC students.
“Right now, we have an environmental project,” Ehling-Gwin said. “I want to make it an educational program — to make it a bigger deal and get more students involved.”