Composting Lessons: The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out

ROCKVILLE, MD. - Montgomery County's worm compost program was recently recognized by Mary-land's county and public school system officials.

The VermiLab, an environmental education initiative, is designed for first through fifth grade students to teach the importance of composting and recycling. Through the study of worm behavior in the classroom, the lab demonstrates the biological and physical activities of redworms in the "compost ecosystem."

VermiLab worm boxes have made a home in more than 100 classrooms in nearly 60 public and private schools in the county. Approx-imately 1,000 redworms are added to each box. So far, more than 5,000 students have participated in the lab either through their schools or sessions at the local environmental education center.

The program began during the summer of 1995 and, initially, called on 30 school teachers to voluntarily adopt a wormbin for their classrooms. Response rates were so high, that the pilot program was expanded to accommodate 35 classrooms and an additional 20 teachers were placed on a waiting list. In December 1995, 30 more classrooms were added and several more training sessions have been held this year.

Lab training includes an overview of worm composting, vermiculture and worm box construction. Teach-ers also receive a classroom activities workbook and observation guide, back issues of Worm Digest and composting posters.

After four months, students prepare a variety of reports on their vermicomposting experiences such as poems, songs, student-produced worm newspapers and essays.

The program also has meshed with the county's government infra- structure. As a result, more offices are hosting wormbins for employee use. Coffee grounds, egg shells and banana peels are now being added to the office compost bin for worm consumption.

For more information on VermiLab or how to start a wormbin, contact: Joe Keyser, 101 Monroe St., Rock-ville, Md. 20850. (301) 217-2361.