Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting kids excited about worms

After setting up my own red worm composting bins this past summer, it was natural for my youngest kids to be interested in what I was doing. For my preschooler, I involved him in choosing the kitchen scraps that were most appropriate for the worm bins. He also helped tear cardboard and newspaper into small-sized pieces for bedding. Every so often, he enjoys seeing their progress and occasionally insists on holding them.

My first-grader was also excited to be involved, but I perceived that she was ready for a little more responsibility of her own. We took a couple large-sized cottage cheese containers, poked a number of small holes in one for drainage and in the lid, and sat it into the second container (to catch excess moisture). She helped shred newspaper and tear bits of cardboard for bedding, wet it, and then she chose twenty worms from the larger bin to start with. I added a small scoop of partially decomposed bedding to the freshly shredded paper to give the worms a jump start. (I could see a number of worm cocoons in this bedding, so I knew that it would help her numbers) This was going to be an experiment to see not only how well the worms would do in a container this size, but also to see how well she would do in being responsible for a pet. (She has been wanting a hamster, but this was a more manageable start for her)

Over a period of two months, she gave her worms little bits of food that we had set aside for the compost bin, and made sure that the bedding hadn't dried out too much. About once a week I had to remind her to feed her worms. She did pretty well for the first month, but after that her interest started dwindling. After two months, her interest was near its end so I asked her to count her worms to see how she had done. She counted over 90 worms as she sorted through the bedding, an amazing increase in only two months! (Now I'm wondering how much of that increase came from the cocoons, but no matter the case, it was a good learning experience for her.) Despite the excitement of seeing so many worms, she was ready to add her worms back to the family worm bin. Perhaps this was the best approach in the long term... to offer a young child that isn't quite ready for long-term commitment, an opportunity to safely try out a new skill and still feel like she has contributed to the family. Now some of the family worms will always feel like they belong to her, and that's a good thing!