Biochar Education: Cops, Cookies and Biochar

Erin Rasmussen

Tom Miles, Kelpie Wilson

The kids are so enthusiastic about doing these projects. They love the hands on aspects and the team work in problem solving. Their teacher, Darlyn Wendlandt does a wonderful job of involving them. Darlyn and I will be writing this up for Green Teacher magazine. I will also be presenting this work at the upcoming USBI conference and hopefully at the IBI conference in Brazil in September.

The report will also cover a biochar education project I am doing at an elementary school. One part of this project is making a tin can TLUD that I designed to be made using only simple hand tools. Inspired by designs from Hugh McLaughlin and Christa Roth. You can find a 6 page illustrated guide to making the stove at my website This is where I post all my biochar project reports. Here's the link to the stove instructions:

-- From Tom --

Kelpie Wilson and I attended an energy fair at a Vancouver, WA, High School (Heritage High School) yesterday. For the past few months we have been helping teachers and students at the school learn about biochar. The display was outdoors and included a biodiesel processor, a biodiesel powered Go Cart, solar panels on the school, a solar pond, and solar cookers. One of the prominent exhibits was Kelpie's "Backyard Biochar" retort that the students built and have been using for the last couple of months. Kelpie also demonstrated a pellet burning tin can TLUD and later helped students make them.

Several of the schools in the district have achieved high levels of energy and resource conservation. At Heritage High School they have combined the biochar projects with biodiesel and agriculture so they all work together. Students have been making biochar from wood and paper waste from the school. They want to make biochar from non-recyclable waste from the school and community and use it in a community garden they are building on the school grounds.

We found the fair to be a fun learning experience. Students in or between classes and at lunch would wander out to look at the exhibits, ask questions, and make comments. I heard many very perceptive comments and suggestions.

Kelpie will be reporting on the project separately but I thought the teachers and principal at the school used a couple of great gimmicks to spice up the display: cookies and cops.

Cookies. Student had incorporated Kelpie's "pizza oven" feature in the retort so they could make cookies while the retort was heating, otherwise it's a little boring just watching the retort. Each batch of cookies that came out of retort was greeted with enthusiasm.

Cops. With dozens of students looking on the school principal went for a ride in the biodiesel Go Cart that was driven by one of the popular young teaching assistants. They disappeared out of view around the school. As they returned to the exhibit area they were followed by a squad car with lights flashing and sirens screaming. The cart was stopped and the driver was "arrested", cuffed, and taken off in the squad car. The cameras came out and the students thought that was the highlight of the day.

Students and teachers have big plans for more biochar next year.

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