The key to organic farming is composting, and students at PS 346 are learning all about this process in the Aquaponics Lab. “Over the next few months, the children will be discovering different ways to recycle and compost our garbage,” said Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman, who explained that the compost would later be used in the soil for the Spring Creek’s Recreation Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom.
Composting is the process of taking green waste (food, leaves, and other organic materials) and waiting for it to break down into nutrient rich humus. Roytman kicked off the composting lesson by showing students how to create vermicomposting. “It’s a fun, easy and fascinating way to recycle our food scraps and produce a natural healthy soil that’s a perfect addition to our garden,” said Roytman to her class of first graders.
The students sat on the edges of their seats in anticipation because vermicomposting uses Red Wiggly Worms. These little creatures will reside within a bin filled with the green waste (scraps of grapes, strawberries, apples, bananas, carrots, etc.), which will serve as the worm’s food. After the worms digest the green waste, they deposit casts filled with microorganisms (free of any pathogenic bacteria because it is killed in the worm’s stomach) creating nutritious compost for healthy plant growth. “Vermicomposting and using a worm bin requires very little work, produces no offensive odors and provides worm castings that will help plants thrive,” said Roytman. She explained that the overall objective is to teach students about sustainability, the ability to develop healthy, sustainable biological systems like the plants and vegetables growing in the SCRF’s UGC.
Throughout these cold winter months, the students will learn about the parts of a worm, how they eat and how the digested food turns into compost, and understand the importance of recycling. Roytman explained to her students that worms do not have any limbs; they use their strong muscles to move forwards and backwards. They eat food we enjoy, like fruits and vegetables, as well as newspapers, cardboard and even banana peels. “Worms do not have teeth to help them chew their food, so they can only eat food when it’s rotting and sometimes it has mold on it and that’s just the way they like their food,” said Roytman. She then compared a worms eating process to how we eat ice cream (worms do not eat dairy, meat or bones) they use their lips to take small bites.
In order to start vermicomposting, Roytman will provide the students with small Rubbermaid containers, where they will place wet newspapers, Red Wiggly Worms and then a layer of fruit and veggie scraps. After observations are made the worms are covered and left to enjoy their food.
“It takes several weeks and sometimes months to begin to see the rich soil that the Red Wiggly Worms make, but after the worms turn the food into soil, you can add it to your garden or potted plants,” said Roytman