Perfect attendance perk

The Early Birds herd the worms. That is the reward for having perfect attendance at roll call in January. You get to be a worm wrangler, or a vermimaestro, or even a red wiggler rodeo queen. This is not an infomercial for a miracle-working exercise machine with operators standing by now. This is definitely NOT Ginsu Worms!

We are raising worms in a covered Rubbermaid tub under the restroom sink. The worms are transforming newspaper, autumn leaves, and lunchroom vegetable waste into "castings" or dirt. For the elite Early Bird Worm Herders, each new day is a chance to stir through the tub with a garden fork to create air pockets and bury new compostibles.

This isn't a stinky job, I'm glad to learn. When we opened the tub, I had an olfactory flashback to going fishing in the rain. It smells like fresh dirt--the dirt in that container of worms from the bait shop. My brain supplied the rest of the scene with the red and white bobber and the cane pole at no extra charge!

Our worms are red wigglers. They aren't really those fishing worms of my memory, nightcrawlers. I have much to learn about worms:

Red worms are composting worms, and they turn organic garbage into a manure called castings so high in nutrients it is now known as "black gold." The red worm must have a constant supply of organic material—manure, decomposing fruits and vegetables, leaves, grass, newspaper, cardboard, etc., in order to live. The nightcrawler tunnels around in the soil making it easier for roots to grow and absorb water and nutrients. (From The Red Wriggler Teaching Manual:A Teacher's Resource for Ecology Education.)

I'm tempted to start worm composting at home. The UNL Extension in Lancaster County has an excellent information page. In the meantime, I want to find that funny chapter in Beverly Cleary's classic chapter book, Henry Huggins, about a third-grade boy digging up worms. Maybe I can read it to the students.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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