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Conway students learn about the role of worms in composting

  • Conway Grammar School fourth grader Aiden Galt holds a red worm during an interactive indoor composting lesson Thursday, March 30, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Franklin County Solid Waste Management District Program Director Amy Donovan holds red worms during an interactive indoor composting lesson at the Conway Grammar School Thursday. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Conway Grammar School students prepare indoor composting habitats for red worms during an interactive lesson Thursday, March 30, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Conway Grammar School students prepare indoor composting habitats for red worms during an interactive lesson Thursday, March 30, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Conway Grammar School students prepare indoor composting habitats for red worms during an interactive lesson Thursday, March 30, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Conway Grammar School students prepare indoor composting habitats for red worms during an interactive lesson Thursday, March 30, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Conway Grammar School students hold red worms during a lesson on composting Thursday, March 30, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Conway Grammar School students hold red worms during a lesson on indoor composting Thursday, March 29, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—



Recorder Staff
Thursday, March 30, 2017

CONWAY — Wriggling, wiggling, slimy worms crawled on the outstretched palms of Conway Grammar School students Thursday as they got down and dirty with indoor composting and learned the crucial role those worms play.

“It feels really tickly. It was doing the worm, literally. It’s so cute!” said fourth-grader Aiden Galt, holding a worm. Looking over his shoulder, fourth-grader Liam Horton said, “I can’t believe someone wouldn’t want to touch them.”

In the school’s library, about 25 fourth- and fifth-grade students worked over large green Tupperware containers poked with small holes, preparing sustainable habitats for indoor composting — and those worms.

Some youngsters crunched eggshells into small pieces, which is necessary to help the worms digest food. The eggshells also provide the worms with much-needed calcium. Others soaked newspapers printed with safe soy-based inks, and then, stacked two layers of the wet paper on the bottom of the containers.

Afterward, students placed vegetable food waste and wriggling red worms between the wet layers. After eating and digesting the food, the worms excrete enriched soil (also called worm castings) — the end product of composting that is great for gardens.

The learning event was sponsored by the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. Students from kindergarten, second grade, fourth grade and fifth grade participated.

Once completed, the composting bins were moved into classrooms, providing students an opportunity to watch the worms in action over time, said Amy Donovan, program manager at the waste management district. In the coming months, she said, they’ll be responsible for the worms, feeding them food waste and spraying the newspaper with water.

“The tie-in to science is invaluable. They can observe it right in the classroom,” said fourth-grade teacher Jill Barnes. Fifth-grade teacher Maggie West noted, “We recycle here — we’ve always done that — this is another level.”

“These children are going to change our world. The way they’re going to do that is through education at a very young age,” said Principal Kristen Gordon.

Donovan said composting will also help students learn about climate change. “If we don’t compost, we contribute to climate change because of methane gas,” she explained. Food waste dumped in landfills is compressed, creating methane gas, she continued. Methane gas is “23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide” as a greenhouse gas.

Of the 37 schools in Franklin County, Donovan said, “31 are diverting food from the trash in some major way.” Because the Conway Grammar School “has a bear problem,” she continued, teachers aren’t able to compost outside. Donovan said indoor composting is a solution.

Among other benefits to composting, Donovan said, “it’s really good for plants — adds nutrients, adds minerals, and it helps soil retain water.” Donovan noted a difference between nightcrawlers, which are more common, and “decomposer” red worms.

Composting materials were supplied by the waste management district and the state Department of Environmental Protection Green Team. Donovan said more worms will be given to the school next week.

For more information on how to indoor compost, and to find materials to do so, visit www.franklincountywastedistrict.org.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo