Happy Soil: Our Compost CAS Project

In German there is a saying “Gut Ding will Weile haben.”. That could be the motto for our compost project as well. Of course, I could have chosen the easy way and asked our talented janitor team to build a new compost area in the school garden. But I find it much more satisfying to see our students taking responsibility while taking over small or big projects in the school garden. It is this moment of joy when they are satisfied with their work which gives me the patience to guide them through the process.

Planning and building the compost area was kind of a long process as well. In September 2020, Sarah Fahrenkamp decided to take over the research and planning. She wanted to work on a realistic project while the COVID 19 circumstances made community projects almost impossible. Her contribution to the school garden was very appreciated since it helps us to develop the space to an even more sustainable one. The old compost area was a very unstructured, not well used space in the back of our garden which we use to call the messy corner. Sarah did some good research and created a great system how the future compost could look like. She also involved the drawing talents of her grandfather  He made sketches for us to visualize the ideas. She also prepared a list of materials and calculated the price of them.

In spring 2021 I ordered all materials but had no idea who would actually build the compost. It mostly helps if I send my wishes to the universe. I did. And short after Pascal and Elliot passed by the garden and agreed on taking the project over. They build the compost over the summer holidays.

How did they feel about their CAS project? Let`s be a bit curious and ask Pascal Schumann and Elliot Schilling some questions:

Why did you choose this project?

Overall, we were both intrigued by the idea of crafting something by hand and doing so for a good cause by helping the school garden and the environment. I (Elliot) personally do a lot of work that is similar to this in my own garden and Pascal is quite experienced in crafting things by hand, which is why we have thought this project would be well suited for both of us as we could work together to accomplish something we both enjoy.

What did you hope to learn?

We both mostly learned about the difficulty of precision in handcrafting, but also how important teamwork and delegation of different tasks is, especially as on multiple occasions we had friends who assisted us. We have also learned about how to speed up different processes when handcrafting and how we could work together to get the most out of both of us.

How successful have you been?

We consider our project to be successful, although we have encountered some difficulties and limitations the outcome of the project was similar to the general idea of what we had in mind for it and we were both satisfied by the result. Due to the uneven surface of the school garden we also had some inaccuracies considering the placements of the wooden planks, though this does not affect the functionality of the project.

What difficulties did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Multiple difficulties were encountered during this project. One of the main ones was that there was a large stone column in the ground, which couldn’t have been removed and resulted in us having to redo our measurements and work around it. Another one was that the wooden post anchors were too big for them to fit inside, which is why we had to get new ones which took us some time and delayed the process of construction. Overall though, We believe that we dealt with the problems fairly well.

What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about other people?

Elliot: I learned about myself that I can successfully plan, develop and build a construction project. What I’ve learned about other people was that their help in our project was more useful than I believed as different tasks were completed faster and that with other people a project like this can be very fun.

Pascal: The project helped me to learn more about construction and the importance of the structure and planning which goes into the craft. Furthermore it helped me improve my leadership skills as I had to organize the times where we would visit the school garden and assign jobs in case Johannes and Paul would come to assist us. What I learned about people is that the help of others can make a great impact in efficiency once it is put to use effectively.

Did anyone help you?

Yes, although most of the work was done by us, 2 other people helped us digging the holes and putting the anchors in (Johannes Giesecke, Paul Schuster), as this was the hardest part of the project.

How did this activity benefit other people or institutions?

This activity helped the school garden in constructing a better compost area that was built from sustainable materials, for the decomposition of biodegradable waste which is then used to enrich the soil with nutrients creating a natural fertilizer for plants, meaning it benefited the school garden in being more environmentally friendly.

What would you change if you were to do this again?

Although a plan is mostly never 100% successful, we believe that next time we have to come up with a better plan as we could’ve organized the project better and be more time efficient. Also, some of the measurements were a bit off and left the compost area looking slightly asymmetrical, which we would probably pay more attention to next time we would construct something like this.

How can you apply what you have learned to other situations?

Hand crafting and building things is very useful when building things together such as furniture, but also other constructions in the garden and it is important to manage the tools that are needed properly which is something that we have learnt throughout this project. However, teamwork is the most useful thing we have learned as using each other’s help efficiently is what made this project successful.

What part/moment of the experience convinced you that it was worth putting your energy into this project?

We think that looking at the end product brought satisfaction to both of us and looking back at how much fun we had when constructing this project is what convinced us that this project was worth it.

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