One rainy spring afternoon, Stoney Park Elementary kindergartners discovered earthworms wiggling on the playground. When several students brought the squirmy creatures inside, teacher Cheryl Hutchings had an idea. What if they raised worms in class?
Soon after that wormy day, Hutchings attended a workshop on worm bins at Downtown Market in Grand Rapids and began the project with a plastic container, soil and 50 starter worms.The project tied in perfectly with Earth Week and, Hutchings said, has provided ample lessons on using worms in composting (called vermicomposting), the ecosystem, recycling and how worms contribute to the planet.
Now, about 1,000 red wigglers — scientifically known as Eisenia foetida — are tunneling happily in a classroom worm bin and receiving lots of love from kindergartners who have learned they are so much more than fish bait.
Wonderful, Wormy Work
Red wigglers are considered the best worms for composting, and students help with that job. Rather than toss their leftover veggies from lunch in the trash, they put their carrots and broccoli in the bin for the worms’ benefit.
Soon the class will add the compost to to an outside kindergarten garden and compare how sunflowers grow with and without the worm dirt. “Worms give nutrients to the soil and they make plants grow and help the Earth,” said student Jayleen Lemus Huerta.
Indeed they do, Hutchings agreed. Worms break down organic matter, and when they eat, they leave behind their waste — called casting — which is a valuable fertilizer.
“Without earthworms, our food supply would be adversely affected,” she said. “Worms are the ultimate recyclers.”
The kindergartners often watch the dirt-dwelling creatures noticing changes in the bin as matter, including their veggies, breaks down.
Cameron Thomas lifted a carrot out of the bin. “This one’s already turning to compost,” he said.
The classroom’s worms have already reproduced many times over, and students have learned to identify the tiny egg sacs. “You can see the babies, teenagers and adults,” Hutchings said as she pulled out a handful of soil squirming with worms.
Students have realized they can help the planet just like worms do, their teacher said. “They have a better awareness of how they can make a difference.”
Interesting Worm Facts