Let's Talk About Worm Poop

I have an idea for an eco-friendly project that your kids will love -- vermicomposting.


Photo by Caitlin Giles

Vermicomposting is the process of
using worms to eat your kitchen waste and turn it into nutrient-rich
compost material to return back to your flower or vegetable garden. Any one can do it and the kiddos will learn valuable lessons about caring for the environment.

The Basics. Vermicomposting
requires a specific type of worm called red wigglers. Their waste is called castings and it contains nutrients such as
phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium that are good for our soil. Worms eat primarily kitchen waste including fruit
and vegetable scraps, coffee grinds and eggshells. Don't serve worms
meat, fat or oil because the vermicomposting bin can get stinky or attract unwanted pests and bugs.

You can make a home for your worms
out of a plastic storage bin. Drill some holes in the lid of a plastic
storage container. Add slightly damp, shredded paper until the bin is halfway full. Toss
the worms and a bit of the soil that they came with into their new
home. Feed the worms produce waste (the amount depends on the size of your bin). In a few months, the bottom of the worm bin
will be covered with a compost. Separate out any worms
and return them to the box. Use your compost in your garden or on your

Local Resources. My kids made their own vermicomposting bins at a seminar at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum last April. First they learned the basics of taking care of a worm bin and then they made their very own. The workshop was educational and perfect for kids ages three and up. I don't see any upcoming vermicomposting workshops scheduled, but I suspect that it will be back on the fall calendar.

 The Chicago Botanic
offers a "Wiggling Worms" program throughout the summer where
kids can learn about vermicomposting and get a hands-on experience with
a worm bin (your next opportunity to participate in this program is July 11-12).

Another great local resource is the Urban Worm Girl. Owner Stephanie Davies sells the supplies necessary to set up your own bin. She also has workshops to help families and classrooms get their own bins started.

I recognize that the whole idea of dealing with worms and their poop might make you feel a tad bit squeamish. But trust me -- it really isn't that gross at all. Your kids will love it and I bet that you will have to admit that at least a small part of you finds it kind of interesting.

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