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The 4Rs: A Wild Outdoor Experience

The irecycle@school Ed Center provides its environmental educators throughout the school year with opportunitieBy Renee' Maningding. Carla the Cart and the compost bins that students empty By Renee' Maningding. Carla the Cart and the compost bins that students empty s for professional enrichment. During these often eye-opening experiences, we learn new ways to engage our audience, become inspired to teach and ultimately, come away with a renewed appreciation for the work of environmental education. Sadly, Environmental Education ranks low on the list of priorities and is difficult for teachers to incorporate into their classroom curriculum. Outdoor programs help to give students the chance to connect with wild places while bringing concepts and lessons to life. YMCA Camp Arroyo, which is an environmental education center and youth camp in Livermore, is one such program.

As an environmental education assistant, you are always looking for new ways to spark students' interest, or find fun but firm ways to manage the group. Observing the Camp Arroyo staff gave us new insights as well as a breath of fresh air, both figuratively and literally (the Pit vs. Oak Woodlands and green hills.) Both Ed Centers focus on food waste, among other environmental themes. At Camp Arroyo, students collect their ort, or food waste, after every meal, which staff record and report. The goal is that by the end of their 3 day and 2 night stay, the 4- 6th graders would have reduced their ort to 1 liter or less. Whatever ort is produced is fed to Carla the Compost Bin, who is taken out by a group to the compost bins in the garden. This reinforces the message here at the irecycle@school Ed Center to, "Think before you toss," but it also implies that we should not waste this food in the first place, as food is grown and cared for, by people. The work of the Camp Arroyo staff inspired me by transforming "lunch" to making choices as a community.

Moreover, many urban students do not have access to a home garden, fresh fruits or vegetables, or even compost bins, for those who live in multi-family complexes. The garden is a 'sacred place,' where all are welcome to smell the chocolate or mint basil, taste the calendula petal, hear the bees, and witness their food scraps' gradual transformation from gross, to compost! In order to help address this issue, StopWaste.Org has scholarships (camperships) to assist schools with a commitment to the 4R's and high percentage of low-income students. These are provided to schools who may not attend camps otherwise.

Back at the Ed Center, things are always changing as we incorporate new ideas from professional enrichment and from each other. However, the experience at Camp Arroyo provides inspiration and a reason as to why we should practice the 4R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot! By diverting garbage we send to the Altamont Landfill in Livermore, we are able to have open spaces and continue to educate our urban youth and citizenry about the importance of enjoying and protecting our environment.

Camp Arroyo offers its programs during the school year for 4th graders and above. For more information, visit their website at: http://www.ebparks.org/activities/daycamps/arroyo.