Making an Impact

Central High School teacher Rowdy Hoover, left, gives student Josh Unger, 18, the task of drilling screws to support the sides of a compost structure behind the school. Agriculture, science and special education students built the structure with grant money from Dominion Power. It will be used to compost cafeteria food waste. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central High School students spent Earth Day working on a composting site that will reduce the school’s food waste.

Agriculture, science and special education students worked behind the school throughout the rainy day on Friday to build a three-bin composting site.

Megan Smith, special education teacher, said the school received a $1,500 grant from Dominion Power to be used for a project called Workplace Readiness Through Positive Environmental Impacts.  Her students have been working to gather leftover food from the cafeteria and culinary classes. They receive points in class for their work toward this project.

Smith noted that since beginning the project her students have collected over 100 pounds of food scraps from the cafeteria.

Colton Talley, 15, of Edinburg, said, they are given a tray of food at lunch, but they don’t always eat all of it.

Ben Gochenour, 18, left, and Terrance Ross, 17, right, bring the front end of a utility pole that will be used as a support up a hill to the construction site of the school's new compost bins. Rich Cooley/Daily

“With the trays, everybody just throws their food away,” he said. Instead of throwing it away, students have been collecting and storing the food waste in composting tumblers.

Smith said the students are really excited to see the composting bins being built after months of collecting the food.

Meredith Bauserman, science teacher at the school, noted there is a recipe to follow when creating compost that includes air, moisture and food for the microbes to survive. A green to brown ratio must be followed as well. The greens refer to food scraps and the browns refer to wood chips and paper.

“For one green you want two browns. That will control the smell and also have a good speed in composition and prevent rotting,” she said.

The goal of a composting site is to keep waste out of the landfills.

Central High School teacher Rowdy Hoover, left, shows Terrance Ross, 17, how to level a support post. Rich Cooley/Daily

“And really once you put food waste into the landfill you’re stopping the nutrient cycle so your food is nutrient rich and whatever you don’t actually consume can be recycled back into good soil to then grow new crops,” Smith said. “It’s been a really awesome project so far.”

In the long term, after the food scraps have been composted, Smith said the class will sell bags of compost and use the money earned for special education supplies and field trips.

“The ultimate goal is to be able to make a profit off of it (and) at the same time be a learning process and learning experience,” she said.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or

Samuel Homer, 17, carries a support pole to the construction site. Rich Cooley/Daily

Colton Talley, 15, uses a claw hammer to pull out hardware in old utility poles while Samuel Homer, 17, right, looks on. Rich Cooley/Daily