Posts Tagged ‘worms’

If you are planning to start a garden or compost program at your school, here are two highly recommended resources. Enjoy!

How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Pringle is one of the best (if not the best) starting a garden guides out there. The book covers everything – from teaching ecology, to writing grants, to how to collaborate to get difficult tasks done. As a supplement to the amazing resources provided by GrowNYC, this guide will help keep you and your garden on track.

If you are interested in starting a worm composting program, try The Worm Cafe, Mid-Scale Vermicomposting of Lunchroom Wastes by Binet Payne. This book tells the story of a school that decided to compost organic waste from their lunchroom, the work entailed, and their eventual success. Also included are classroom activities to tie into the school-wide vermicomposting.

Do you have any other garden or compost manuals you use on a regular basis? We would love to hear what your favorites are. Leave a comment and let us know.

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Yesterday, we explained arthropods to supplement the Focus on Insects section in My Green Community. Today: pitfalls. A pitfall is exactly what it sounds like, a pit that will trap small creatures (insect sized) who fall in. Of course, not everything trapped in a pitfall is going to be an insect…

To make a pitfall, you can use the illustration on the left. Full instructions with a materials list can be found inside our educator’s guide.

Things you might find include worms and arthropods, including insects. Worms, of course, are not arthropods – a worm lacks an exoskeleton. Catching a worm in your pitfall will be a great point of comparison for students, because they can feel the difference between the two. (Many young children will have trouble feeling an exoskeleton on an insect, because it is still much less hard than a rock, say. They can usually, however, feel that a worm is squishy-er than a beetle.)

How are you going to identify the other creatures that end up in your pitfall? Try a website like http://insectidentification.org/, which also covers spiders (spiders, remember, are not insects). Here you can browse by category or enter characteristics of the small creature into a drop down menu to identify what it is.

Or, use a field guide. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America by Arthur Evans is a kid-friendly, well illustrated guide that should help you identify most, if not all, of what you find. Check out a copy from your local library and your class can identify exactly what you find in your pitfall.

Check back next week for a simple song to help your students remember the characteristics of an insect.

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An earlier post talked about worms’ role in composting, but we completely glossed over the concept of decomposition. Sure, it can be gross and smelly, but decomposition is an important scientific concept for students to be introduced to.

Before introducing compost, students should have an experience of watching items decompose. Make a simple decomposition chamber and watch the process of decomposition happen in front of you. Full instructions for this simple project can be found on the Bottle Biology website.

Once you’ve built your decomposition chamber, students will be able to observe what rots and what doesn’t – a great jumping off point for considering which items can be turned into compost and which items have to be disposed of in a different way. You can also revisit worms and add them into the story of decomposition.

Bottle Biology, by the way, is a great website and book set, produced out of the University of Madison-Wisconsin. The concept is simple: observe scientific processes through the clear plastic of a soda bottle. You can find two other activities on the website or purchase the book for more ideas.

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So, you’ve introduced worms to your classroom and you know what composting is. Here are some resources to help you implement composting in your classroom or school garden.

Checking out worms at the Brooklyn Children's Museum's indoor worm bin

The Department of Sanitation’s NYC Compost Project provides some incredible resources for composting. Here are some highlights:

  • Free “worm”shops for NYC teachers
  • Classroom workshops for grades 1-8: a representative from the local compost demonstration center will come to your classroom and demonstrate composting, with live worms included
  • Field trips for students: visit your borough’s compost demonstration site
  • Service learning opportunities: contribute to compost projects in your community
  • Low-cost starter worm bins and red wiggler worms at cost (for $55, or a discounted $44 if you complete a “worm”shop)
  • Other websites for composting education (we will be featuring a few of these on the blog soon!)

Starting a worm bin or outdoor composting site may seem like a lot of work, but with all these resources, it should be much easier… Happy Composting!

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So, you’ve got worms down – let’s turn to composting.

First of all: what is it? Composting is the process of taking unwanted organic material, allowing it to decompose, and then using the decomposed soil as a great fertilizer for your garden or farm. The idea is to take unwanted items — a rotten tomato, a banana peel — that would otherwise end up in a landfill and put it to productive use. In other words, composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food.

To make this work, you have to be careful about what organic material is used: no animal or dairy products!!! You can compost plant parts, including fruits and vegetables, as well as some unusual materials, like eggshells and newspaper. Basically, the materials are all “greens” or “browns” and you can use this complete list from New York City’s Department of Sanitation for reference.

If you decide to compost at home or at school, you will want to read a book or two on the subject. Check out Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell. This book, in print for 30+ years, will teach you everything you need to get started and create great compost for your farm or garden.

Now what? There will be posts later this week and next month on:

  • The NYC Compost Project
  • Composting with Kids
  • Composting as Sustainable Practice
  • Decomposition in the Classroom

Are you excited about compost yet?

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And now a shift from birds, to what they eat!

The next couple of posts will talk about composting and gardening, but first let’s start with worms.

Ask any gardener – worms are great! They start with dirt and turn it into wonderful soil, which helps plants grow. To help kids understand, read Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser. It’s a great book with clear explanations of a worm’s role in making useful soil.

For the teacher, check out Backyard Scientist: Exploring Earthworms With Me by Jane Hoffman, for more science activities to do at home or in school with worms.

And check back on this blog in the next few days for more about worms and their role in waste management and growing food.

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