Composting project - Students raise cash for worms

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Central Global Science students work on their worm bin, which will bring greater efficiency to the school’s current composting efforts.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor



ix Central students recently used an online fund-raising site to solicit donations for an unusual product. They wanted to buy worms—lots and lots of worms.

The group needed five pounds or about 5,000 worms to add greater efficiency to the school’s composting effort. According to Central instructor Ann Gritzner, whose Global Science students have undertaken the project, worms serve three purposes.

“By adding worms to our current composting system we can speed up the processes and produce soil that is richer in nutrients,” she explained. “The worms add their castings (or waste) to the compost making it more fertile than regular compost. Their actions also break the material into smaller pieces so it will break down faster.”

Central has been composting school lunch waste for about two years. The nutrient-rich soil created by the worms will be used for the school garden and perhaps even made available for sale to the general public.

The vermiculture project, which was explained at Monday’s annual Chamber dinner, easily hit its $400 goal. Originally, a small portion of proceeds was earmarked for supplies to build a worm bin. But the materials needed for that part of the effort were donated. 

“We decided to build our own worm bin instead of buying one off the Internet,” said Central senior Ted Hilgerson, who is one of the students involved in the effort. “Our original idea called for purchasing lumber but we were able to obtain most of the material from local donors. We used old telephone poles for the rudders and received a donation of a wooden pallet from Caterpillar that we used for the base.” 

Parker Klingman, another Global Science student, donated a large water tub, which formed the body of the bin. Hilgerson, Klingman, and the group’s other members, Kyle Bech, Cole Deitchler, Brandon Hach and Cody Mueller, built the structure.

Before starting their project, the students visited Gilbertson Nature Center, where naturalist Dawn Amundson, shared information on worm bins and let the students get hands-on experience building one there. The adult worms, which Hilgerson says reproduce once every three months, were purchased in Wisconsin. Originally, the group hoped to purchase 10,000 worms but costs forced them to reduce the target number.

Central students have used online fund-raising for other projects, so Hilgerson wasn’t surprised by the success of the effort. The response was gratifying, nonetheless.

“It feels good to know that the community knows what we, as a group, are doing and that they support our projects this way,” Hilgerson said. “The money raised isn’t only going to be used for the vermiculture project but also for other projects in the Global Science class.”

Hilgerson got involved in the project because, he said, “I feel it is another step towards finding new solutions to our pollution output.” That definitely aligns with Gritzner’s goals for the class, which include evaluating or refining a solution that reduces human impact on natural systems, analyzing a global challenge, and evaluating a solution to a real-world problem.

Gritzner added, “My major goals for this and other projects is for students to realize that their actions can affect change and how to approach a project where the answers are not all found on the Internet but rather requires (them to tap into) local resources.”

It appears her students did just that.

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