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Special education class uses foodcycler in visual learning

FoodCycler is no stranger to classrooms. In fact, more and more educators and administrations - not to mention the students - are learning about the wonders of using food waste recyclers in the classroom.

Mountain View Middle School opened their doors to the 2018 Fall Semester, and Adrianne Butero’s Special Education Classroom were excited to learn that they were going to take over responsibility of the school’s greenhouse.

As a school proudly representing a majority of students of color and those living below the poverty line, Mountain View is entitled to donations from various businesses and organizations. Following a donation from a local gardening supplies provider, Ms. Butero’s class had begun the exciting journey of growing the school’s very own plants and produce.

A greenhouse is an inspired addition to any school; Mountain View’s Special Ed classroom in particular is no exception.

The classroom is composed of thirteen students living on the autism spectrum: lesson plans are therefore taught through the use of visual cues and hands-on learning. Lessons apply special focus to life-skill development.

As the class began “digging into” the school garden, Ms. Butero arrived at every gardener’s inevitable question: how can we encourage the growth of the plants without the use of pesticides or expensive traditional fertilizer? Further, how do we demonstrate the natural but lengthy biological process of decomposition and growth to our visual learners?

Reviewing their options, the school finally landed on the FoodCycler as an alternative to traditional composting. As a trial run of this new technology, students were encouraged to deposit their lunchtime leftovers and scraps into the FoodCycler. Once the bucket was full, they would run a cycle throughout the day, often reaching the end of the cycle by the end of the school day.

With their newly recycled food scraps in hand, the class incorporated the nutrient-rich by-product directly into the greenhouse soil, assisting the growth of the plants and adding a fresh understanding of biological processes to the students’ life skill learning.

Ms. Butero realized instantly just how well the FoodCycler fit into her classroom.

“My kids are visual learners. It’s gratifying for them to see the whole process, going from eating the food, to turning it into fertilizer, and then putting it back into the earth - all in a few hours.”

The FoodCycler was the focus of multiple educational segments: Ms. Butero was able to cover subjects in waste diversion and recycling, as well as various STEM-oriented projects.

Educational materials were created with the unit as a focus, visually demonstrating how their food scraps are decomposed via the FoodCycler, cycled into the soil and used to grow food anew.

The FoodCycler was also useful in cooking and baking projects, as a complement to a modern, eco-friendly kitchen. Everyday chores, like cooking and taking out the trash can represent a barrier to learners with olfactory and sensory sensitivities; the FoodCycler, as an odorless, mess-free waste recycling system alternative, means that these tasks are not only possible for sensitive learners, but enjoyable.

“Doing chores can be taxing for these kids, but the FoodCycler isn’t a challenge.”

Ms. Butero noticed that her students were engaging with the FoodCycler on more than one level. “I had parents coming up to me, talking about how their kids were telling them not to throw out their leftovers!” Her students had also begun approaching their General Education schoolmates on how to properly divert waste from the trash, proudly representing their school as environmental advocates.

“I would ABSOLUTELY recommend the FoodCycler for other classrooms and other schools. It’s perfect for my classroom and my kids!”


A Note on Terminology

The FoodCycler™ is a countertop electric food waste recycler that breaks down food scraps through a mechanical process into a dry, lightweight by-product that can be used in gardening applications as a fertilizer. The FoodCycler™ and other electric food waste recyclers are not composters, nor do they produce compost or soil as they do not require additional microbes to break down food waste with bacteria. However, the term "electric composter" has been used to describe the FoodCycler™.