On October 21, 2019, a class of Falk School 5th graders visited Eden Hall as part of their exploration of renewable energy sources. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, and we started with a tour of campus, which included their wastewater systems for capturing, filtering, and reusing water, the fish tanks in their aquaponics lab, and the year-round greenhouse where we enjoyed the fragrant earthy smells of the squashes, tomatoes, and herbs they were growing.
We had signed up for the Passive Solar Design Challenge. Each small group of students was provided various types of insulating and reflective materials (e.g., newspaper, aluminum foil, bubble wrap) and challenged with designing a system that would capture the sun’s energy. We tested the designs by measuring the temperature of a cup of water before and after a 30-second exposure to a heat lamp. Initially, most groups were more concerned with preventing heat loss by insulating the outtake hose, but after a couple of tries, they started focusing on how to maximize the capture of the radiant heat. In the end, every group was able to raise the temperature of the water, in some cases as much as 10 degrees F.
Then we had lunch. In the preliminary materials, Eden Hall sent a challenge: to see how close to making a zero-waste lunch could we get. They had plenty of suggestions such as bring reusable containers and cloth napkins. Over the years, Falk School has been working hard to reduce waste. Our primary level students have made large, laminated signs for the bins that collect recyclables, compost, and landfill items. Our middle schoolers created collages of all the materials to provide visual reminders of what should go in each bin at lunch. Classrooms have added to their job charts monitoring that things are done correctly at the end of lunch. So our 5th class was well versed in minimizing waste and primed to do well. In fact, we did very well, having generated the lowest amount of lunch waste in all of Eden Hall’s history!