2023 Grants Challenge

Magic Soil Bus: A Mobile Education Hub for K-12 Schools

Idea by LA Compost

Our Youth Education Program (Program) aims to engage Title 1 schools and communities in Los Angeles through localized, organic waste diversion solutions and soil health education. The Youth Education Program will empower K-12 youth through school campus visits from an electric 'Magic Soil Bus', off-campus field trips to community-level compost hubs, and technical assistance for school composting systems to supplement hands-on, STEAM curriculum opportunities for teachers.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

We aim to support Title 1 schools across grades K-12, where budgets are restricted, students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs, and may lack access to enriching experiences beyond their campus. Majorly, this project will prioritize Title 1 schools that primarily serve students from low-income and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) racial and ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, this program will ensure accessibility for special needs students and students of varying physical abilities through providing a variety of education-based activities and modalities. By bringing the Magic Soil Bus and off-campus field trip opportunities at little to no cost for Title 1 schools, we aim to bridge the gap in access to educational resources, providing a unique and enriching experience that would otherwise be out of reach for these communities.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Our Youth Education Program will aim to engage 12 school communities and host 1-2 school visits and/or off-campus field trips for Title 1 schools and student groups with limited income budgets per month, for a total of 12-24 events. The Program's school visit component, The Magic Soil Bus, will act as a mobile educational hub, bringing the world within our soils to K-12 schools in Los Angeles County. Our team of dedicated staff educators will coordinate the bus to travel to different campuses, equipped with the knowledge and expertise to guide students and teachers through the transformative process of soil systems and foster a deeper understanding of sustainability and environmental stewardship among the younger generation. Funding for K-12 school bus transportation is a major hurdle for Title 1 schools to access off-campus field trip locations. To address this challenge, we plan to introduce a sliding scale scholarship plan that provides transportation to schools that lack the means to leave their campuses, allowing students to experience regional scale composting infrastructure and soil regeneration projects that extend beyond their campus.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our program's short-term impact involves building early awareness among students and their households about the significance of reducing food waste in landfill, its connection to soil health, and ultimately, climate resilience. By organizing interactive Magic Soil Bus sessions and off-campus field trips, we will bring opportunity for scientific discovery, creative exploration and build authentic interest for food waste reduction and soil stewardship. Longer term, our Program will bolster a school composting network that supports youth to habitually take action in composting and waste reduction at their homes and on their campuses, and build age-appropriate STEAM and environmental science skills pertaining to decomposition, soil testing, microscopy, and calculating environmental impact. By making composting and food waste diversion accessible for youth, we will move entire communities closer to building sustainable habits and taking collective action.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Throughout and at the end of the grant period, we will report progress on the number of schools reached through outreach and engagement, the number of off-campus field trips and technical assistance support that has been provided to schools, and the number of students, teachers, parents, stakeholders and community members engaged. Following all field trips, pre-post surveys will be provided to youth and teachers to determine if an increase in awareness and understanding of food and organic waste recycling, composting and soil health was attained. Beyond the grant period, after we have established a staff and student engagement network for school site composting, we will support schools to estimate the amount of organic waste diverted from landfills by students and their school campus communities, and calculate the greenhouse gas reduction equivalent.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 300

Indirect Impact: 3,000