Slimy, wiggling, crawling additions teach green lessons at Starside
Slimy, slithering worms recently took over Starside Elementary School.
However, the worms have been welcomed with open palms.
The worms are part Starside’s continuing effort to lessen the school’s carbon footprint.
The composting, red wiggling worms in bins were delivered to each third-, fourth- and fifth-grad classroom about two weeks ago, said Paula Henderson, school counselor.
The school was able to purchase the worms, along with biodegradable lunch trays and larger recycling bins, after receiving a $4,500 Kansas Green Grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education partnership.
Henderson said the school, which was named a Kansas Green School in the spring of 2009, had been talking about waste management and how to lessen the school’s footprint when deciding how to use the grant.
“We definitely needed to get the Styrofoam out of here, so that way number one,” she said. “Then we talked about how we could benefit from our cafeteria scraps.”
And so, the composting worms, which cannot be fed meat, cheese or citrus fruit, were purchased to feed off of cafeteria waste, banana peels, paper towels and leaves, Henderson said.
“I went to the younger classrooms too because they were hearing from their older brothers and sisters about the worms,” Henderson said. “The kids are holding a few worms and they are just real cute with them. They were all real excited.”
Teachers with a worm composts in their classroom chose a student to be a worm worker, tasked with keeping the worms moist and fed.
Karen Marquez and Paden Bedford are fifth-grade worm workers.
“You get to learn more about worms and how their habitat is,” Karen said of the new composts. “They eat and digest the stuff, and you get fertilizer and worm tea.”
Paden said the worms were an exciting way for the school to be green.
“We have a lot of stuff at school that can be decomposed that we just throw away,” he said.
Worm workers check on the worms twice a week, adding scraps mixed with coffee grounds and wet newspaper to the bins.
Henderson aid it would take about a week or so for the worms to digest the food added.
“It depends on how many worms are in each container,” she said. “The fertilizer adds up on itself and you remove the top bin to get the clean fertilizer.”
The worms also produce what Henderson and the students call worm tea, the liquid bi-product created as a result of the food and moisture in the worm bins.
The clean fertilizer and worm tea work together to help grow healthier fruits and vegetables.
“They are really interesting to learn about,” Paden said. “We learned about their digestive systems and how they eat the food. They even have mouths, Mrs. Henderson saw one eating a piece of paper.”
Henderson said the entire school was excited about the worms and the continuous green impact the school has made.
“We’re just having a good time with them,” she said. ‘We have done such a great job of being green. It’s amazing that our recycling bins are very large and our trash bins are so small now.”