Invisible Pet Project at Meliton Albañez Elementary School

Invisible Pet Project at Meliton Albañez Elementary School

“I saw Antonio give a compost workshop and I just knew that I had to have a project like that in my school” says teacher Leslie Castro who teaches 3rd grade at Meliton Albañez Elementary School. “I knew I wanted to work with my students to create a garden on the school grounds.”

With that inspiration CSU Cero Basura Coordinator Antonio Diego started going to Meliton Albañez Elementary School every week and having lunch with the kids in grades 1 to 3. His first lunch date was in September 2023. “My idea was to promote waste separation, seed separation and compost” says Antonio. “We would all eat fruit together, and then the students would take the fruit seeds, put them in napkins, then place the napkins in a shady area of their classroom to dry.” The goal was to create an infinite activity, a cycle just like the one nature goes through. After a few weeks Antonio took some soil to the school that he had harvested from the compost he manages at the CSU Todos Santos Center. The children put the soil in small containers and planted the seeds from their watermelons, cucumbers, papayas and other fruit.

“The kids were really taking care of those plants and tended them in their classroom planters for over 3 months, even over the Christmas holidays, so we know their families helped. The plants were doing so well that soon we needed a garden” notes Antonio. While the plants were busy growing, the kids got busy creating the compost that the garden needed to have; nothing but the best soil for their fruit plants. “Every day during recess the kids, supervised by their teachers, used a knife and chopping board to cut their organic waste into scraps for the compost pile. Some children brought their organic waste directly from the family breakfast at home. I told the students that they were caring for an invisible pet, which is the bacteria SIRDO that specializes in turning their organic waste into compost.” The results are exciting says Antonio. “Just before the Semana Santa holiday we were able to harvest 30 kg of our own compost at the school! We use a thermometer to test it – 34.1 Celsius is the average temperature – and a scale to measure the impact of waste diverted from the landfill. That has been a total of 46 kg since March 4.”

When the compost was ready, Antonio and teacher Leslie Castro invited some of the parents to come help dig a trench on the grounds of the school using John Jeavon’s principles of Biointensive Farming. The kids helped add the compost and the plants in the trench, and now there is a scholar’s garden blooming at Meliton Albañez! 90 students and teachers in Grades 1-3 signed a pledge in March to continue raising an invisible pet every day at recess, so the kids continue to be actively engaged in making compost every day to feed their garden. Antonio will soon install a drip system donated by a friend of the project.


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