NH Ag in the Classroom's Newsletter

MARCH 2011 

Worming Our Way to Spring 

In This Issue
Worms - Nature's Recyclers
The Bookshelf



March 13-19, 2011  

Materials available at:


NHAITC is celebrating with local schools by readingbee book cover
in classrooms throughout NH and providing teachers with resources to educate students about Honey Bees! Want more info, contact Ruth Smith, State Coordinator at 603-224-1934 or via email






Websites & Lessons Worth A Peek


The Northeast Resource Recovery Association's School Recycling Club provides resources for teachers on how to compost inside and outside the classroom.  They provide several user friendly guides on line for creating and using a worm composting bins at school.


  Mary Appelhof, author of Worms Eat My Garbage provides tips, resources and online shopping for materials and equipment related to worm composting.


  UNH Cooperative Extension has resources on everything from gardening to nutrition.  This handout is specifically about worm composting.


Cornell University looks at the basics of how to set up and use a worm compost system, but also explores the biology of worms and provides good background for educators.


Joan O'Connor of Henniker, NH raises red wigglers and sells them for home and school use.  She also does workshops on how to set up bins and use the worms.


Red Worms for a Green Earth is located in Rollinsford, NH and also sells worms, bins, kits, holds workshops and offers consultation.  


Worm Woman 
Meet the worm woman who started it all!


Worm Bin Project 
Students will learn about decomposition
and the worm's life cycle.


Science Museum of Minnesota Online Worm Project 
See first graders at the  

Museum Magnet
School exploring the world  

of worms.


Worm Words Glossary for Teachers     

Learn the words that pertain to

worms and worm composting.


Worm Supplies 
List of worm sellers in the United States and Canada


A Guide to Worm Composting 
Tips for making and using a worm bin.

Worm Facts

  • An earthworm can grow only so long. A well-fed adult will depend on what kind of worm it is, how many segments it has, how old it is and how well fed it is. An Lumbricus terrestris will be from 90-300 millimeters long.
  • A worm has no arms, legs or eyes.

  • There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.

  • Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don't have these things, they go somewhere else.

  • In one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms.

  • The largest earthworm ever found was in South Africa and measured 22 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.

  • Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants. The sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.

  • Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms more than 100 years ago.

  • Worms are cold-blooded animals.

  • Earthworms have the ability to replace or replicate lost segments. This ability varies greatly depending on the species of worm you have, the amount of damage to the worm and it may be easy for a worm to replace a lost tail, but may be very difficult or impossible to replace a lost head if things are not just right.  
  • Baby worms are not born. They hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice.
  • Even though worms don't have eyes, they can sense light, especially at their anterior (front end). They move away from light and will become paralyzed if exposed to light for too long (approximately one hour).
  • If a worm's skin dries out, it will die.
  • Worms can eat their weight each day.


          Happy Birthday to NHAITC formed 20 years ago this month.

     What Is Ag in the Classroom? has been our theme for 2010-2011, now it appears to be the right time to answer Why have Agriculture in the Classrooms?.
        Why now? Because of the economy, specifically, our budgets at all levels. I know, that is all everyone talks about and I have done my best to stay away from these subjects.  However, I bring it up at this point because some critical issues in the state legislature will on the one hand directly affect our programs while on the other hand exemplify our foundational raison d'etre. 
    Everyone wants to cut expenses to avoid more debt. What has NHAITC got to do with that in the legislature? The base line is that we believe that helping youngsters understand how truly vital agriculture is to each of us everyday should help provide informed future citizens who will think, act and vote responsibly. No matter what they grow up to become, our hope is that they will not favor laws and plans which will be destructive to the farms and farmers and thousands of businesses necessary to the agriculture infrastucture that feeds, clothes, warms and houses us all.
    As the second half of the 20th century began, there were still many active legislators who were still actively farming at home around trips to Concord (and even Washington) to represent and serve their neighbors. They were able to explain during lawmaking sessions how ideas that appeared brilliant to consumers and financial experts, etc. would actually aid or prohibit agricultural practices so that knowledgeable dialogue could attempt to bring about reasonable solutions. And all could benefit.
    Today, we do not have much of that down to earth base. Farm Bureau, Grange and commodity groups work tirelessly to keep the agriculture voices heard. Yet the votes come from the elected seats, the spots we strive to have filled with folks who at least have had  exposure to the critical realities in the farming community, including  maintaining a separate funded Department of Agriculture, UNH Cooperative Extension (which does 4-H and much more), Farm Services, NRCS, County Conservation Districts,  etc. 
    Personally, in spite of my very early passions and talents in animal husbandry, I would never have become who I am--making my living in agriculture in many parts of the country and world--without 4-H with my daughters.
    Once again, we are not teaching farming, we are not even recruiting. We know from experience that students enthusiastically bounce out of their chairs, waving their arms to participate when we bring 'Ag stuff' into the classrooms and use it in any subject from math to geography.  History comes alive and that history puts a more thoughtful spin on the present. 
    This year's Ag Literacy book,  In The Trees, Honey Bees  that is written in beautiful poetry and simultaneously more detailed prose will not only have the listeners buzzing in literature, but also fascinated with the science of beekeeping and honeymaking.  If you have not yet scheduled a reader for your school, just contact us at 603-224-1934 or via email
Jozi Best
Worms - Nature's Recyclers

     Recycling food waste by composting it is a win-win situation and something that can be done at schools with great educational reward.  Benefits are that food waste is no longer waste to be discarded, but a resource to be recovered.  The resulting rich compost can fertilize house plants, gardens or school landscapes.  The greatest benefit is that students learn about life cycles, environmental stewardship, soil science and much more. 
     As with many projects, it's best to start small.  Building a large compost system in your school yard is possible, but starting with a worm bin in your classroom is much easier.  Classroom bins are neat, unobtrusive and handy for educational purposes.  You can also begin by composting scraps from your students' snacks rather than launching into a cafeteria or school-wide effort. 
     The key elements to worm composting or vermicomposting are setting up the bin, feeding and caring for the worms and harvesting the compost.  Details of how to establish and use worm bins are found in the links provided so please check them out.  I recommend starting with the schoolrecycling.net site and their NH based, teacher friendly guide. 
     The best part about this project is it doesn't cost a lot and it can save the school money by reducing disposal costs.  The housing can be a plastic bin from any department store.  Worms can be purchased from garden centers or local breeders who do on-line sales and are often vendors at area farmers' markets (see links).  Red wiggler worms usually run about $25/# and you get about 1000 worms per pound, plenty to start a classroom bin.
     Students can be involved in creating the bin and setting it up by shredding newspaper for bedding.  The paper is blended with other materials such as sawdust or chopped up leaves.  Put math and measuring skills to work as children try to obtain the proper balance of moisture and bedding.  Examining the worms themselves is also a thrill for children of all ages.  The book Worms Eat Our Garbage is full of student centered activities for learning about the life cycle and biology of these fascinating creatures.
     Feeding the worms helps students understand about responsible waste management.  Most food leftovers can be given to the worms instead of thrown in the trash.  Sometimes this backfires when kids want to feed the worms and don't finish their own snacks.  But there's a lesson there also: too much food for the worms can unbalance the system and lead to smells and flies. However, if the lessons are learned well and the volume of food, moisture and worm population is kept in balance, no objectionable outcomes will occur.
     You don't have to wait for the ground to thaw or seeds to be planted to start developing some valuable soil enhancement.  One of the great benefits of vermicomposting is that it can be done all year long, basically anywhere.  The investment isn't large and the educational, financial and ecological benefits are great.  So what are you waiting for?  Happy worms could soon be in your future.  Good luck.                                                       by Ruth Smith, NHAITC Coordinator

The Bookshelf

Worms Eat Our Garbage: Classroom Activities for a Better Environment

This curriculum uses over 150 worm-related classroom or home activities to develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in children grades 4-8. Activities integrate science, mathematics, language arts, biology, solid waste issues, ecology, and the environment.
Author: Mary Appelhof, Mary Frances Fenton, and Barbara Loss Harris    



Worms Eat My Garbage: How to setup & maintain a vermicomposting system

The definitive guide to vermicomposting--a process using redworms to recycle food waste into nutrient-rich food for plants. Provides complete illustrated instructions on setting up and maintaining small-scale worm composting systems. Internationally recognized, the author has worked with worms for nearly three decades. Topics include different bins, what kind of worms to use, sex life of a worm, preparing worm beddings, how to meet the needs of the worms, what kinds of foods to feed the worms, harvesting worms, and making potting soil from the vermicompost produced. Second edition.
Author: Mary Appelhof     




The Worm Cafe: Mid-scale Vermicomposting of Lunchroom Wastes

This manual describes how a teacher and her students developed a system to compost lunchroom waste with worms and save their school $6000 per year. How they performed a waste audit, garnered support from school personnel. Discusses bins, bedding, maintenance, harvesting and using castings in the school garden. Contains earthworm diagrams, bulletin board materials, quizes, letter to parents, charts, and dozens of resources.
Author: Binet Payne  





Compost, By Gosh!

A wonderful adventure where a young girl and her Mom convert a storage box to house their new pets, pets with a purpose. The box becomes a vermicomposting bin and the pets are redworms. Poetic, rhyming couplets provide a grand explanation of the process of vermicomposting in a manner that the youngest reader/listener will enjoy, which is supported by adorable illustrations. The book ends with How To and Resources sections to encourage further exploration of vermicomposting.
Author: Written and Illustrated by Michelle Eva Portman
Level: ages 4-94   






The Worm Book

Comprehensive book on why raising worms is important, earthworm biology, setting up a worm bin, maintaining a worm bin, other animals in a bin, using worms and castings in your garden. Addresses aspects of growing worms as a business.
Subtitle: The Complete Guide to Gardening and Composting with Worms
Author: Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogan Taylor   








There's a Hair in My Dirt: A Worm's Story  

Written after FarSide cartoonist retired from the daily grind of putting out his cartoons which grace the door of many a biologist. Larson incorporates much biology in this rather twisted take on the differences between our idealized view of Nature and the sometimes cold, hard reality of life for the birds and bees and the worms (not to mention our own species). A New York Times Bestseller.
Author: Gary Larson