Things were downright dirty and squirmy at Lennoxville Elementary
School last Friday as the grade three classes were given a hands-on
lesson in vermicomposting.
With hundreds of worms in tow, Ontario worm farmer Cathy Nesbitt
introduced the students and their teachers Bonnie Juby-Smith and
Isabelle Desbiens, to the indoor garbage disposal system that
uses worms to turn organic waste into nutrient-rich organic soil.
“Early explorers would take worms with them because they
are soil makers. They brought worms to the new world so they could
make soil to grow their food... now they are trying to figure
out how to bring worm to mars,” said the founder of Cathy’s
Crawly Composters. “When I started doing this I used to
say it’s not rocket science, it’s earth science but
now it’s rocket science too.”
After being shown how to build their own worm bins and getting
the basics on how to use the only three-tiered worm chalet in
the country, the animated and comical presenter explained to kids
how worms can help save the environment by eating trash and keeping
it out of landfills.
Nesbit is a woman on a mission, to see that every family has
one pound of worms – containing about 1,000 red wiggler worms
and 400 night crawlers - helping to breakdown the one tonne of
organic waste the average Canadian family produces in a year.
Even with the city’s compost system, Nesbit believes every house
should have a team of working worms.
“The organic collection program is great but it’s not sustainable.
You have the trucks that are driving back and forth to collect
the containers and leaving a carbon footprint and containers [to
store waste inside] that aren’t well made and end up producing
methane gases in the kitchen,” she said. “[vermicomposting] is
all done onsite so I’m really looking after my own garbage. It’s
waste management and fights soil degradation all at once.”
Back in the classroom the kids learned composting basics and
worm biology – they live ten years and have five hearts but can’t
hear or see - and even what a group of worms is called - it’s
a squirm by the way.
Although they were are bit grossed out – one student noted that
he would never eat spaghetti again – they were captivated and
bravely handled the invertebrates admitting, as another student
put it, that they were having “super gross fun.”
Graham, 8, said he enjoyed learning about how to feed and prepare
bedding for the worms in the chalet.
“In a way it’s complicated because you have to do a lot but it’s
good for the environment and it’s fun,” he said.
When asked why worm composting was a good idea, Christopher,
age 9, said it was “cool” and would help “people grow much better
Nesbitt has been focusing on worms since she left her career
as a social worker to open her green business in 2002. Since then
she’s amassed more than 4,000 clients in North America,
multiple awards and will be travelling to Guatemala next month
to help women who live around a garbage dump use worm-based composting
to become entrepreneurs.
Along with touring trade and green shows, she’s travelled
across the country giving classroom workshops to help to eliminate
the “ick” factor. It seems to have worked for 9-year-old
Meagann who’s more comfortable with worms now. “It
was fun,” she said of the workshop, “And it was nice
for them to come all the way from Toronto to teach us.”
Thanks to two green grants - $1,300 from the TD Bank, Friends
of the Environment Foundation and $1,000 from Metro Green Apple
Grant – the grade three class not only had the workshop
but gets to keep three worm chalets, giving the school its first
worm composting program.
The units will stay in the classroom, with the extra one going
to the school’s daycare, prompting 8-year-old Eryn to bet
“we have the most classmates in the whole school.”
The class plans on using the compost they produce in and around
the school gardens and are discussing the possibility of selling
it in future fundraisers.
To learn more about worm composting visit www.cathyscomposters.com.
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