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Student Gardeners Tackle Lyle Composting Project

Underwood Conservation District create stewardship program

Students at Lyle Middle School in Klickitat County are teaming with the county solid-waste program and the Underwood Conservation District to create a community garden program that promotes stewardship of natural resources.

With the help of a $9,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE), teacher Michael Becker and his students will develop a community composting program on a plot of land adjacent to the school.

"Grant funds will allow us to move from a wonderful backyard project to a sophisticated scientific research project," said Becker. "Students will have the opportunity to use research skills and equipment not now available at this school."

The grant will be used to buy tools and classroom equipment for the community garden and composting project. The students will learn about the principles of sustainability -- living in a way that reduces waste, re-uses or recycles materials, and restores the environment.

"The project dovetails nicely with the county's chipping program," noted Peter Severtson, with DOE's solid-waste program. "Not only will the organic garden provide a local source of high-quality food, it can serve as a model to educate others about the benefits of composting and sustainable living."

The county will supply the student gardeners with chipping material to add to their compost piles. Solar panels will provide the energy needed to power blowers for the compost system. Data loggers will collect information on weather and temperature the students can download and analyze on computers.

Using microscopes and lab equipment supplied through the grant, students will learn about the biology of composting and how to analyze data from their project.

DOE staff will provide ongoing technical assistance to the project.

"We hope the kids will act as ambassadors of what they've learned about composting and sustainability," Severtson said.

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