WMS teacher Linda Estes adds a factory to her classroom — for worms

Special to The Mountaineer
By Gail Heathman | Apr 22, 2013
Photo by: Donated photo Linda Estes

When it comes to trash, ignorance is bliss — at least, it used to be. Many of us can recall a simpler time when we just threw trash away and never gave a thought to where “away” was. As landfills, well, fill up, the need reduce our amount of waste becomes increasingly urgent. Fortunately, young people are being taught the importance of recycling. At Waynesville Middle School, students in Linda Estes’ class for exceptional children gather items for recycling every Friday. Come fall, her students will have assistance from some small, squirmy — but effective — helpers when it comes to taking recycling further, when worms called red wigglers will set up residence in Estes’ new Worm Factory 360. The process is called vermicomposting; like magic, the worms will munch on shredded newspaper and food scraps like coffee grounds and apple peelings and create rich compost.

Although this won’t be the first time Estes has been involved in vermicomposting, the Worm Factory offers an easier, more efficient way to get the job done than the plastic totes she’s used in the past. Compact in size, the system is designed to allow air flow on all four sides of the base while not allowing light in — worms, after all, need darkness. The four stacked trays inside will be easier to handle than some systems, with each tray holding only12.5 pounds of waste. Since Estes would like to possibly sell worms in the future, she appreciates the system’s expandable feature. The worms can consume up to six pounds of food per week; that means over the course of the school year more than two hundred pounds of waste can be turned into worm castings (vermicast), which are many times richer in phosphates, nitrogen and potash than the average garden soil.

The Worm Factory, appropriately, is made in the USA of post-consumer recycled materials. To purchase it, Estes obtained funding through a grant from the N.C. Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (NCASWCD) Auxiliary. Teachers and principals are eligible to apply for funding on projects that enhance learning using conservation and environmental practices. For more information, contact Gail Heathman at the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District at 452-2741, ext. 3, or email gheathman@haywoodnc.net.

Gail Heathman is the Environmental Educator Education Coordinator for the Haywood Soil & Water Conservation District.