Turning trash into treasure: Briggs Elementary students dig compost initiative

May 7, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Briggs Elementary School is turning a new leaf with the start of a composting program at the school.

This spring, Briggs received a recycling education grant for $1,305 from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to begin a composting initiative. Students across the school collect composting items, such as uncooked fruits and vegetables, pencil shavings and coffee grounds.

“I want them (the students) to think before they waste and think before they throw something away,” said Jeff Murrie, the farm-to-school teacher at Briggs. “I want them to think about the resources that were used to bring that fruit or vegetable to the school.”

Each classroom has an orange composting bucket, where students can place their leftover fruits and vegetables and pencil shavings. The cafeteria also has composting buckets for uncooked fruits and vegetables.

At the end of lunch each day, the sixth-graders take the buckets out to the compost station, dump them and wash them for the next school day, Murrie said.

Fourth grader Cayden Brown has taken part in the compost initiative at Briggs, and as a result, she decided to start composting at home.

Cayden’s family purchased a compost tumbler, and she goes out and turns it every day. This year her family also began growing a garden with tomatoes, bell peppers and a few spices.

Cayden’s mother, Chasity Brown, who is a teacher at Briggs, said Cayden brought the idea of composting home to her family and wanted to implement it in their own home. Chasity said Cayden also spent her winter break researching the sustainability of grocery stores in the area from something she heard in Murrie’s class.

“It starts at the school level, and it’s slowly coming into the homes,” Chasity said. “I think that’s a school-wide thing. It’s not just happening in here. It’s not just happening because I am a teacher here. I think these students truly want to make a difference, and he’s teaching them how to be sustainable.”

Chasity said she’s seen that her students have been making healthier choices and grasping concepts of sustainability.

Murrie said the compost initiative has encouraged students to make healthier snack decisions so they can be involved in the compost initiative in their class.

“That’s a great thing to think about,” Murrie said. “That student was eating something that was mass produced, not the most healthy choice. Now they’re bringing something and eating it, and even if it’s just so that they can put it in the bucket, that’s a great thing.”

Murrie said one of his goals for the composting program was to teach students a respect for the food they eat and the resources used to produce the food while giving new life to leftover foods that will help the Briggs farm.

“The result is that we are not filling this landfill with organic material,” Murrie said. “We are actually using this organic material to produce a product that we can use in our garden at our school. That is the ultimate goal: to produce compost that we can use.”

Murrie said the first batch of compost is projected to be completed in the next six months.