BELOIT -- Apple cores and banana peels had a special use following a recent snack time for Our Lady of the Assumption School (OLA) first graders.
Students recycled the organic materials by putting them into a worm bin. It was part of the first grade curriculum unit about soil, recycling, and composting.
OLA first grade teacher Cynthia Welte said, "I really enjoy environmental science so I felt this project would be perfect."
Welte said her students have been eagerly checking their worm bin each day and taking turns to add bedding or other needs.
"They're learning how the worms break down organic matter and how they turn it into compost. We've also learned that the bin must be kept covered with newspapers or the worms will seek light and try to crawl out," she said.
Welte stated, "I believe this is a very good, hands-on way for students to see the action, so to speak, and not just read in a book about the good things that come from the earth."
Help from grant
Last fall, she applied for a grant from the Rock County Conservationists (RCC), asking for funds for a VermiComposting Kit. The kit contains worms, a bin, and bedding.
"We were delighted that our private school received this grant. Thanks to the RCC project chair, we also received enough money to purchase books about worms and the environment. The books add a lot to this project and are greatly appreciated," she said.
"We kicked off our project at the (Carl) Welty Environmental Center in Beloit when the RCC group presented a workshop for our first graders as well as our students in kindergarten and second grade," said Welte. The conservationist group discussed worms and how compost is made.
"Through this project, we've learned respect for animals, the soil, and for recycling. Overall, the students have been fascinated and very interested in the worm bin. I think they've learned that worms are our friends," added Welte.
However, there have been a few "squeamish" times. Welte humorously remarked.
"Recently, when we carefully dug into the bin, we found a huge apple almost completely eaten. It was covered with our worms. We've discovered that the things we place in the bin do disappear."
There's a plan for using the compost when the project is completed.
The first graders will have the opportunity to see how recycling helps the environment and enhances flowering plants.
Welte said Les Blumeirch, a member of the parish building and grounds crew, has offered to add the compost from the worms to soil around one of the many flower beds on the OLA campus.
Also, Welte stressed, the worms will be reused for a future unit. "We cannot let the worms go free. They are not a native species, so we can't put them into our environment."