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Getting Kids Interested in Worms and Recycling: Make it Fun

I was recently thinking about how much enjoyable it is to see pictures of fellow vermicomposters getting their kids involved with worms.  It warms my heart and gives me hope for the future of our planet.  Believe me, I never envisioned myself to be an avid environmentalist.  I am still far from where I would like to be in my journey to the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly life possible, however my views are evolving and I have a much greater appreciation for how much I CAN have an impact by keeping my waste out of landfills.  That’s information worth sharing.

I see now, that every little bit helps.  It is not about cutting everything out at once, but the little steps.  I feel that I was behind the curve.  I was honestly in a world where I was ignorant to the waste problem in our country.  I was oblivious to the repercussions of big industry, poor water quality, and GMO’s being used in our agriculture.  I was brought up in suburban America, sheltered from the reality of the growing health concerns in our country.  All going back to the health of our planet.

I was raised in a house where we always recycled, but I never really understood why it was so important.  I had a superficial understanding but not nearly to the extent I do now.  I hope that children growing up today will be raised in homes, schools and neighborhoods that make learning about recycling, gardening and treating the planet right a top priority.

Testing the Waters

Lets not lie, I was a bit childish myself when I started worm composting.  I was naïve.   I was scared to no end to handle my worms even with gloves and the bugs flipped me out.  Boys tend to be more “rough-and-tumble” and typically are more open to playing in dirt, running in creeks and playing with bugs.  Girls on the otherhand– if they are anything like me, are little divas (I say that with love).  My entire life I have been afraid of getting dirty, hate bugs and am not a huge outdoorsy person.  I have grown to appreciate it at lot more as I grow up, but some habits never die.

If your kids are into the outdoors, into bugs and open to trying new things this may not be a struggle for you.  I can only imagine what my reaction would have been to playing with worms when I was six or seven.  I cried when I saw my friend eat an ant on a dare when we were ten but that’s a story for another day.  I was spoiled as hell.  I was an expert at dodging gardening work, raking leaves or doing anything that involved dirt and bugs (until the pile of leaves was high and I decided to go destroy the work my parents had put into raking them).

My Dream

I hope that we can get kids back to the outdoors, back to nature and playing outside.  I want them to enjoy the sun, the wildlife and beauty that is all around us.  I grew up playing lighting tag with the neighborhood kids.  I would catch crayfish and salamanders in the creek.  It took me awhile to get there, but I loved it so much: catching all the frogs and toads I could.  We would put them in a little “home” which was a glorified bucket and release them all at the end of the day.

I don’t have any kids yet, but I am surrounded by enough in my family and neighborhood that I think I have a decent grasp on how their little brains work.  Kids soak up knowledge so much better than we do as adults and the habits we begin teaching early, the more they will come to appreciate it and want to continue it in their own lives.

I want as many kids as possible to get to experience worm farming and composting in their homes, schools and neighborhoods.  I hope one day this is a mainstream process and less of a “hobby”.  It is not only a benefit to the earth, but to reducing our carbon footprint and being able to grow healthier plants in our own backyards. It can be something “fun” that is responsible and environmentally conscious at the same time.

Getting Started

Maybe you have worms already or maybe you are on the fence about beginning worm composting.  It can seem overwhelming at first and obviously there is a learning curve, but why not include your kids in the journey?

When I first started my totes, I was psyched about it.  My neighbors Grandson was outside swimming in the pool and came over when I took the worms outside to harvest some castings.  I asked him if he wanted to help.  He was hesitant at first, but I dumped the contents of the bin onto a tarp and starting using the sunlight to harvest.  He sat and watched for a good 15 minutes before saying “can I try?”.  We ended up sitting together outside on the lawn for over an hour “playing” in my compost.

A few weeks after this, I was putting in my first “real” vegetable garden.  I found that my neighbors Grandson was outside again and having dinner with his family.  When they were finished, he ran over and asked to help me plant.  We put in all the plants and in a few months time, he was coming over to grab tomatoes and peppers to eat with his parents.  I felt accomplished, I was able to teach him just a little bit about what I was doing and how you can reap the benefits of harvesting great food with the help of worm castings.

Long story, but one that really touched my heart.  I am sure his grasp of the situation was far less than I told him, but he was into it and continues to come over and ask me about my worms and grab food from the garden.

My Experiment

I think that the Rubbermaids are a great way to raise worms, but clear containers may be a much more efficient way to demonstrate what worms can do with kids.  Even if they don’t want to touch the worms, they can help add food and peek through the clear tote or whatever clear system you choose to use.  Think of it as an ant farm.  Ant farms would be pointless if we didn’t have the clear container to view their tunnels and activity taking the food around the little maze they build.

The Glass Vase Experiment: Watch Here

I just started an experiment using a glass vase.  I layered it with food and bedding.  I covered it with a light towel so when I am not working with it, the worms aren’t annoyed by the light.  When I peek in, I can see the worm activity all through the vase and see the decomposing matter as it turns dark and castings are forming.  A variation of anything similar to this would be an awesome way to show kids how composting works.

As they begin to learn and appreciate what you are doing, I have little doubt that they will be eagerly waiting until the next time they get to feed the worms.  I think that projects like this will help children develop a better understanding of recycling and how they can help make something that can be used in their own yards!  Plant some veggies, a butterfly bush, or some herbs.  Let your children help you and learn the benefits of vermicompost first-hand.

The Takeaway

Let us be honest, kids these days are more interested in their phones, tablets and video games than they are about going outside to play.  That’s fine, but lets get them involved in other activities as well.  The electronic world we live in has really pulled many of us in and we have lost that connection with the environment.

Try something out with your kids, grandchildren, at a school, or even with nieces, nephews or neighbors.  No step is to small.  If we pique just a little interest in worms, we may be surprised at what is possible and how we can shape some new understanding, new appreciation and new participation in helping rid our own environment of requiring ” quick fix” chemical-filled fertilizers.  We can eliminate waste from the already overflowing landfills.  We can get back to a more organic way of growing and a better way to handle our waste.  We can get children out fishing and enjoying what mother nature has to offer.

Tell me how you include kids in your own composting.  What gets them most excited?  I would love to hear your stories.  Follow my experiment on the YouTube channel and lets see if we can spread the fun to as many people as possible.

One thought on “Getting Kids Interested in Worms and Recycling: Make it Fun

  1. I like your approach to getting the younger generation involved in being responsible for our actions. Or the lack of action. Vermiculture is a good way to do that. Thanks for fostering this campaign. <

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