CREEDS — Students at Creeds Elementary School demonstrated a compost tumbler that helps them – and some helpful worms – keep a garden at the rural school.
This was the last day of school, and there were high spirits.
“Thank you, composter,” said Maggie Kelley, 10, of Blackwater.
The tumbler, essentially is a barrel that spins, mixing compost for vermiculture. That’s when worms help break down organic material into rich soil, and the students help the worms’ digestive process by chopping the food materials as small as possible with shovels before tumbling it some more.
Fourth and first graders at the school are using vermiculture, composting and garden to learn in a hands-on way. This year it was supported by a grant from the Virginia Beach Education Foundation, which helps develop support and funding for innovative learning efforts.
It’s an expansion of the garden and even efforts at vermiculture – Diane Marx, who teaches first grade, built the box in which the worms work. It includes a window in the front so young people can watch the changes take place — and spot worms.
There were lettuce, tomatoes, pumpkins, basil and even corn.
Back to the tumbler, though. The product, eventually, that makes part of the garden? They call it “worm tea.”
The compost, too, was a bit juicy in the tumbler.
“Ew,” Kelley said. “It got down my leg.”
“It’s bad when it’s wet,” said Jacqueline Pallister, 10, of Blackwater.
They opened the tumbler.
“See that steam coming up?” fourth grade teacher Amy Bowles asked. “That’s a good thing.”
But the students needed to make it less wet, so they added shredded paper to the compost before tumbling it all some more.
“That’s why you put the paper in,” Grace Andes, 9, of Pungo, said.
“You have to make sure its fluffy,” Zoey Walker, 9, of Pungo said.
“It can’t be too dry or too wet,” Andes said.
“Pieces of fruit and things have to be very small,” Walker said. “We use shovels to chop it up. The worms help compost it.”
Some of the students held lettuce leaves, if only momentarily.
“Our lettuce is overflowing in this patch so we have to pick it,” said Jenna Morris, 10, of Pungo.
“So what do you do when you pick it?” Bowles asked.
“Eat it,” Morris said.
There was much to show for the fourth graders.
“This is regular dirt and this is worm tea,” said Anna Soutiere, 10, of Pungo. She explained that students used different plots tended with different approaches to fertilization as an experiment to compare.
There were plots they tended and the plots of first graders, too.
“We’ve also been working with Miss Sawyer’s first grade class,” said Ella Kirste, 10, of Back Bay. “We can teach them things.”
“They love taking care of the garden, and we love taking care of it with them,” Walker said. “They’re learning new things. We’re learning new things. It’s like a classroom outside, but it’s more fun.”
Bowles said other efforts are possible, such as a developing a certified wildlife habitat by including things like houses and feeders for birds.
Someday there might even be a garden bed for each grade level.
Marx said students are learning in a variety of areas through the garden and composting. And they’re also learning through their little friends.
Marx showed the worms at work on a summer-long in the box just outside the school.
“You can see we just put some food in,” she said. “By fall, that should be soil.”
Students have even signed up to help tend the garden through the summer.
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