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Worms in the Dartmouth Middle School Library

by Michelle Eberle on 2024-02-01T13:38:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

By Laura Gardner, Teacher Librarian at the Dartmouth Middle School Library

I am a fan of sustainability and my school community knows it. Many teachers and students are aware that I commute to school on my e-bike year round and I make no secret that I am a climate activist in my personal life. My students like to know who I am and what I care about just like I want to know their interests. Being a librarian and being a teacher is personal! So when a parent reached out to me recently to ask if I’d be interested in vermiculture, or worm composting, in the DMS library, I immediately said yes! I have written before for this blog about our Climate Prep Week activities and our other sustainable efforts in the library; this seemed like a natural next step and a great opportunity to educate the community about worms and compost in the school library.

Worm Factory

The composting system that was purchased for our library is the Worm Factory 360 ($134.95 for the full system). It comes with everything you need to get set up except for the worms (we purchased 250 worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm - $27.95). The compost system is easy to set up – dry newspaper on the bottom, a mix of coir, pumice, minerals, shredded newspaper (all provided), and dirt from outside with some damp newspaper on top. We have started adding leftover food from the library lunch bunch twice a week, which I cut up with kitchen scissors before burying. So far we have fed the worms green beans, apple, baby carrots, banana peel, cucumber, and lettuce. Any extra leftover food goes to the outdoor compost bin. When the worms fill the first level with soil, I’ll add the next level. Eventually we will be able to take the dirt from the bottom bins and use it in the school garden, which is maintained by the Garden Club.

My library assistants and I created a display with picture books about worms that I checked out from the public library and some posters with worm anatomy and fun worm facts. My favorite worm fact so far is that they eat small stones and dirt to help break up the food in their intestines. We also created posters where students could “name a worm,” which has been a huge hit. Some worm names include Garlock the destroyer, Nick and Charlie, Taylor Swift, and Mr. Twist. I invited all the science classes to come see the worms and some teachers are sending students in small groups, but mostly students are interacting with the worms as they come into the library for other reasons. I see them hover by the display, which gives me an opening to pop over and show them the worms. I also did a fun wormy storytime and activity with our special needs students. We learned all about how worms help the soil in gardens by breaking up the soil and making nutrient-rich soil from their poop. I’ll be doing a wormy storytime with my after school Book Club and the Garden Club in a couple of weeks, as well.  kids looking at worms

As for school vacations like February break, I’m planning to ask my regular custodian if he will spray the newspaper every day to keep it moist and add food halfway through the week. Everything I have read has indicated that underfeeding is fine and overfeeding is actually worse. One of my student library assistants who is in the Garden Club is even interested in possibly taking the worms home over the summer! Over time, I expect I will put the display away and put the worm composter in a corner, but I will continue to reference it for sustainability projects in 6th grade (usually happens in October so I missed it this year) and with lunch bunch and library assistants.

Name Your Worm SheetsBooks we have on display and for wormy storytime:

  • French, Vivian. Yucky Worms. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2009.
  • Glaser, Linda. Wonderful Worms. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 1992.
  • McCloskey, Kevin. We Dig Worms! New York: Toon Books, 2015.
  • Pfeffer, Wendy. Wiggling Worms at Work. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2004.

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