OGDEN -- Students at Shadow Valley Elementary School finished their lunches and bused their trays, but not before setting aside valuable fruit and vegetable scraps earmarked for composting.
Many Utah schools had activities Monday for Earth Day, but composting at Shadow Valley is something that happens every day of the school year.
"People throw away fruit when it could be used to help the soil," said Tanner Leishman, a sixth-grader from Ogden and a member of Shadow Valley's Green Ambassadors service club. "Making compost is a good thing to do."
Tanner and fellow Green Ambassador Jansen Stettler, also 12 and a sixth-grader from Syracuse, weighed the green waste and marked the amount on a wall chart. The boys carried the bin outside to a compost bin the school has kept for two years. The finished compost will enrich a vegetable garden the school is planting this spring.
"I don't know if Mount Ogden composts," Tanner told Jansen, speaking of the school they will attend next year. "Maybe we will have to start a petition for composting when we get there."
Shadow Valley has many green activities planned for Earth Day week. Events for the 590 students include a tree planting, a playground trash cleanup, a walk/bicycle/carpool to school day, and a natural light day, with limited use of overhead lights.
"Shadow Valley is an environmental science magnet school," Principal Don Mendenhall said. "We get students from surrounding schools who have an interest in environmental science. We have 15 applications so far from students who want to come here next year."
Shadow Valley, built in 2009, was designed to meet high environmental standards. Solar panels on its roof help reduce its utility bills, Mendenhall said.
Sixth-graders said they backed all the school's efforts, especially composting.
"We need to fill in the scars in the earth," said Riley Hansen, 12, of Ogden. "That's why we started composting, to fill the scars other people caused. People waste so much food. They were all excited about cars, machines and coal, and now people with asthma can't go outside some days."
Abbey Blair, 12, of Ogden, said any waste that can be composted should be.
"If you don't compost the things you can, it fills up the landfills," Abbey said. "If you compost, it gives back to the earth."
Jada Ballard, also 12 and from Ogden, said she learned about composting at school, then took the practice home.
"My mom plants tomatoes and zucchinis, and they've grown much better since we started composting. It's a noticeable difference."
Cheyenne Herland is the school's environmental science teacher, and splits her time between Shadow Valley and the Ogden Nature Center.
"My dream is to see people give their children time outside, to pursue whatever their interests may be," said Herland, who studied both botany and anthropology at Weber State University.
"I'd like to see parents spend time outside with their children, if possible, and I'd like them to stop telling their kids not to get dirty. It's only if our children develop personal relationships with nature, and learn to respect it, that our future will change."
An afternoon Earth Day program added to the fun. Des Ta Te, a 12-year-old American bald eagle, made an educational appearance with Bryce King, her Ogden Nature Center handler. Members of the Green Ambassador service club coached kindergartners on how to sort recyclables and compost material, turning the process into a game. Students got awards for posters, heard a presentation on air pollution, and sang an original song about recycling to protect the Earth's resources.
Josh Wennegren, from the Utah Society for Environmental Education (www.usee.org) awarded Shadow Valley Elementary a green flag to recognize the school's documented efforts in the areas of sustainable practices, sustainable facility, environmental education and community involvement.
"The kids are great," Mendenhall said. "They are very conscious about conserving energy and aware of the need to protect the environment. I am very proud of my students."