As the worm turns, students learn

April 20, 2018 GMT

For second-graders at Bishop McNamara Catholic School’s Bourbonnais Campus, every day for the rest of the school year will be Earth Day.

Or, make that Earth Worm Day since University of Illinois Extension’s staff member Holly Froning introduced them, teacher Sharon Clark and aide Cheryl Bevis to “a very unusual new word — vermiculture — composting with worms” — a process to make new earth.

She brought them soil and a bag containing a couple hundred red wiggler worms to convert some of their lunch leftovers into more soil and to raise more wigglers — enough for everybody to take worms home at the end of the school year to help enrich their yards, gardens and potted plants.

The announcement immediately harvested a bumper crop of oohs and ahs.

The worms “love to eat banana peels and apple cores and apple peels,” she said. “There are things they don’t like ... broccoli and cauliflower, citrus peels, orange peels. They don’t like bones ... So we’re not going to put chicken bones in the compost.”

Individual students will be in charge of the worms for a week. They do research on the worms for the week.

She promised to leave her phone number and email address so they can contact her if they have questions.

“Worms can do tricks,” she added. “I will leave you a box of tricks you can do with them — different colored paper to put the worms on ... and lights to see how they react.”

She cautioned them that the worms don’t like their soil too wet or too dry and that giving them too much to eat can cause problems — mold and unpleasant odors ... Only put in a little bit each day ... If you have ideal conditions for your worms, you’ll get more and more worms.”

Froning has started projects in a dozen classes this month and has a dozen more to visit.

She is Kankakee County coordinator of Extension’s Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs, which work with the schools and other public programs.

“Quail in the Classroom” is another program that focuses on embryology and that has as started incubating more than 400 quail eggs that should hatch the first week of May then be released by the master naturalists in appropriate habitats.