Kooser Kodiaks championing sustainability through composting

Kooser Elementary recently launched a school-wide compost program after a successful pilot last spring. The Kodiaks started collecting organic materials like food scraps, paper towels and tissues around their school. The school has waste bins throughout the building to help students and staff correctly sort their waste into three categories– compose, recycle and landfill. This effort complements its cafeteria compost program. 

Kooser kindergarten teacher and sustainability champion Andrea Woita helped get the ball rolling. Woita was also the think tank behind having students learn about waste sorting.

Similar to several elementary schools across the school district, Kooser’s early release days on the last Tuesday of the month follow an adjusted schedule allowing a 30-minute assembly where students can engage in an activity. On one of these days during the fall semester,  Kooser invited the Lincoln Public Schools’ Sustainability Team to lead activities for each grade helping transform students into waste-sorting experts. 

“The Kodiaks had a blast with the sustainability team during their grade level presentations because it was interactive and the kids enjoyed learning about what they can do to help our world,” Woita said. 

LPS composting expert Melissa Mercier brought a sample of finished compost so students could see what happens to the material they collect in the bins at school. Then, Assistant Sustainability Coordinator Mandy Bydalek reviewed the type of items that go into each container before having students test their skills with a “Super Sorter” relay race. 


“The students were all engaged in what would go in compost, recycling, or landfill,” school librarian Katie MacDonald said. “Having the students themselves sort the pieces in a relay or by showing the number on their fingers allowed them to all be actively engaged. I’d tell anyone who uses this system in their school to invite the sustainability crew out!”

These experiences with the LPS Sustainability Team are a great way to review information with the entire school in a meaningful way. They are also a great starting point for schools unsure about how to incorporate more sustainable practices throughout the day. 

“I can say that it was one of the best experiences that we have ever set up for our students – ever,”  Kooser computer teacher Jill Swank said. 


Published: November 15, 2022, Updated: November 15, 2022

Kooser students participating in a waste sorting relay.