Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Worm Bins in the Classroom by Alyson Winkelaar

Here in the Community Relations section (of Waste Management Services), we are gearing up for another school year. With presentations such as Waste and Our World, Choose to Reuse, Squirmy Wormy Composting, and Garbage In-CompostOut, we reached over 3000 students and teachers during the 2011/2012 year.

Squirmy Wormy Composting presentations
With these presentations, we brought the wonderful world of worm composting to nearly 100 classrooms last year, alone.  During the presentation, students are taught how red-wiggler worms can help us with the fundamentals of waste management: the 3 Rs. Much of the food waste that comes from our kitchens and lunches can be Reused as a food source for our red-wiggler worms, helping us Reduce the amount of waste we throw away every day. By munching and digesting, the worms Recycle our food waste into high quality compost that can be added to our potted plants and garden beds. The students are taught how to care for the worms. They learn that worms will thrive with the right balance of moisture, air, food, and shelter.
Most times, we leave a small worm bin behind. It is stocked with worms and bedding material so the students can enjoy the benefits of compositing, right in their classroom.

How We Can Improve
One thing we want to improve is support for the worm bins that we leave behind. Every once in a while, we get a panicked call for help from a teacher whose worm bin has turned into a smelly bog, the worms are desperately clinging to the sides or trying to climb out, and food is sloshing around the bottom. Of course, that's if any worms can be found at all! We worry that, when things go wrong, teachers will just throw out their worm bin...  rather than ask for help. We want to support teachers, so they have a good experience with worm composting. 

How MCRs Can Get Involved
We are looking for volunteers to help with our School Worm Team.  Lots of Master Composters Recyclers have agreed to be a Compost Doctor (making house calls to assess someone's backyard compost bin). The School Worm Team is Compost Doctoring at its finest!  Volunteers will be matched with schools in their area that have recently had a Squirmy Wormy Compost presentation.  MCRs will contact the teacher two or three weeks after the presentation to see how things are going with their worm bin.  If help is needed, either advice over the phone or a quick visit with the teacher will help put their worm bin back on track. 

This new grassroots School Worm Team initiative is important because it is neighbours helping neighbours. We would love to revisit schools and see thriving worm compost bins in the classrooms that are actually being used to help reduce the amount of waste being thrown out at schools throughout Edmonton. This is a super simple way to volunteer and get to know your local schools at the same time!

Sign up for the School Worm Team at

Alyson is a Program Specialist and has worked for the City of Edmonton (Waste Management Services) since fall, 2011. She already delivered 3 presentations for the school year and is excited to do many more. Alyson became a Master Composter Recycler in 2012. Outside of the world of waste, she is an accomplished dog trainer.