I realized today that I am about to have my 5 year anniversary of being a worm mom. It’s been one of those things that changed my life the way real parenting does in the way it changes your worldview. What began as a lesson plan about landfills lead to an incredible science experiment that has taken on a life and personality in our playroom, and I would like to say thanks to my worms and kids for what they taught me on our anniversary.
At the end (or beginning) of it all, we are all made up of dirt. As we toss a banana peel into the bin and then take our compost for the house plants or flower-seed bombs or eat things we bring home from our greenmarket we are teaching about a loop of giving and receiving and creating a relationship with earth. We are made up of the same stuff: minerals, micro-organisms, tiny bits of stardust and worm poop. The most humble and the most celestial all at once, over and over and over.
It’s big deal to touch worms. We need to be gentle with worms, but if you drop him, it’s okay, they don’t seem to be hurt a bit. They are very forgiving to toddlers. Everyone is curious, cautious, everyone holds one at their own pace, there are always enough worms for everyone to have one and look very, very close. We share with the worms, and they share with us. I tell the children, “they are some of our oldest friends on earth.”
The smell of the worm bin is kind of comforting. Unless I have done something wrong. I have learned through trial and error and lots of reading about keeping a healthy bin. I am amazed I kept them alive this many years, and the kids have been there with me in fascination as we find things growing out of seeds, how worms cuddle in an eggshell to keep warm or how they wiggle around on our hands. I have learned how to fix my bin if I did make a mistake, and return my worms to good health. They are very forgiving to learning teachers.
I can’t use my bin for all my program’s food waste, so I am grateful to have compost collection at my greenmarket, because once I saw how wonderful my worms were, I couldn’t bear tossing compostable waste in the landfill. It’s become personal. I felt sad putting organic waste in the trash. If I missed a compost drop, the green compostable plastic bags filled with worm food fill the entire space leaving no room for people food sometimes. Sometimes I bring 50 pounds of compost to the sustainabilty center, that’s 50 pounds that avoids landfill, doesn’t become methane, doesn’t pollute and instead becomes dirt again to capture carbon in the atmosphere and heal our pretty planet.
It’s a pretty magical thing, turning garbage into “black gold,” as farmers call the rich, dark castings left by the worms. We can do this magic, too- by creating something from trash into art or to something new to use. We have powerful imaginations and curiosity and energy, if the tiniest, simplest creature can save the earth, I know we can too.
And that’s the thing I am most grateful to be reminded of each time I open my “worm condo” with my kids. Thanks, all.
For more info: www.grownyc.org