City High/Middle School Students Hit Economicology Turf

Students are never too young to start learning how to compost!
Students are never too young to start learning how to compost!

To say the first economicology curriculum in town is up and running after one semester is not exactly true. Students at City High/Middle School have raced out of the gate to implement the principles of balancing the economy with the ecology. Peter Wege has advocated this philosophy since starting The Wege Foundation over 40 years ago, and he coined the term economicology to summarize it. The Wege Foundation is now sponsoring a premier Grand Rapids Public School to pioneer this environmental-financial approach to education.

And, to be precise, the first students whose classes are infused with economicology values actually jumped the starting gate before the doors opened in the fall of 2008. As school let out last spring, City High students in the Environmental Club decided they’d had enough of watching everyone’s lunch leftovers fill up trash bags. They needed to do something about it, and September was too far away.

Some of the E Club students actually followed garbage trucks and saw all their school’s food refuse end up in the dump. They recognized this as negative economicology. Pay for dumping and damage the environment. Their solution? Composting.

Over the summer they interviewed the food-service people at San Chez and the Grand Plaza Hotel knowing those restaurants both composted. They found out that environmental haulers named SPURT were the ones who did the composting. They also found out how strict SPURT’s rules are to ensure only food waste gets into the composting containers.

When school opened last fall, composting was in place at City High/Middle . No extra staff time (cost!) was needed because student volunteers did it all. Principal Dale Hovenkamp noted there was “a learning curve for a while.” Faculty and students had to learn how to sort and separate foods and dishware into the correct recycle bins.

By second semester 2009, after-lunch sorting was second nature. According to Principle Hovenkamp, the composting project has raised awareness for all the 620 seventh-through-twelfth grade students at the school on Fuller. “This is a very smart group of kids,” Hovenkamp makes clear. “They understand why we need to do these things.”

The ripple effect of this economicology transformation is already happening. East Grand Rapids High School students heard their friends from City High talking about it, and they wanted in. East students have now checked out how City’s composting program works…they plan to go therefore and do likewise at their own school.

Yet more to come at City High/Middle? A wind turbine. Boycotting the sale of bottled water. Using their compost on apple trees started in the school science labs to be planted on school property. Selling CFL (compact fluorescent Light bulbs) to save energy and raise money for more economicology projects.

No, the kids who jumped the gun last summer using economicology to make theirs a better world haven’t even made the first post around their track.

Brandie Perry from The Wege Foundation is shown with Dale Hovenkamp, principal of City High/Middle School–part of the Grand Rapids Public School System. The poster behind them represents the new economicology curriculum that started in the fall of 2008 and is being taught across the curriculum in all six grades, 7th-12th. Funded by The Wege Foundation, the curriculum is based on Peter Wege’s economicology principles that advocate a balance between the economy and the environment.