SFSF - Schools For a Sustainable Future
Joseph Natoli, SFSF Project Director, surrounded by happy, enthusiastic children
synergy vol 1 issue 1

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The Worming into the Community Project

Joseph Natoli, of Schools For a Sustainable Future, details how humble earthworms lead children down the path to sustainability

Probably one of the easiest and best ways to start your school's journey towards sustainability is through setting up an effective worm farm and recycling program. Understanding the need to replenish our soils, and recognising the amount of resources we use and waste, are powerful tools in encouraging a sustainable future.For the last three years I have had the privilege of initiating and developing an Eco Recycle/CERES program which has introduced effective recycling to more than sixty Melbourne schools.

The program, called Worming into the Community, has evolved into a highly effective way of developing student and school commitment to reducing, reusing and recycling school-generated waste.In essence, the program aims to inspire children (in at least one class) to be school leaders in promoting the recycling of organic waste through a school worm farm, and setting up recycling procedures for paper and other recyclable items. Children, particularly in primary school, love the opportunity to lead the way in changing how their school runs - especially when the project is seen as very important. When, additionally, you throw in the opportunity to educate their family and local community, the buzz is even bigger.



Generally, one class with an interested teacher is chosen as a focus group. I have worked with levels from Grade 2 to Grade 6 in Primary Schools, and Years 7-9 in Secondary Schools. Interestingly, the Grade 4 classes have been the most successful.The class is introduced to the idea of why we need to recycle organic material, and how compost worms are a natural and ideal way to achieve this end. They are also to that their class will have the chance to be school and community leaders in recycling.We set up a classroom worm bin, and the teacher then begins to use the worms as a resource for teaching, English, Math's, Science and other subjects.

And of course, the children become very interested in these delicate, slimy little creatures that will eat almost everything, (organic!) they feed them! The bottom line is that almost every child I have introduced to worms becomes fascinated - and then "hooked".The next stage is two complementary objectives. First, we (children, teacher and I) have to work out how we are going to educate/persuade/tell/bribe/cajole the rest of the school to put their rubbish into the right bins, and in particular to feed their wormy friends. In every case, the answers will come from the class with lots of enthusiasm.

The second objective is to do a waste audit over two weeks, which is intended to establish what type and how much waste is produced by the school. In fact, the two week waste audit is also designed to stabilise an effective waste collection system and, because it is carefully checked every day, the process shows the rest of the school that the 'worm' class is committed to keeping up the effort.After this, we introduce a large school wormery to take care of the organic waste the school produces. To date this has been a CERES Monster Composter, but other options are available.

Of course, the school also needs to have paper, plastic and can recycling facilities in place.The final state of the Worming into the Community project is to take the message home to families and the local community. In truth - as the name of the program suggests - the main objective of the program is to positively affect the wider community.With enthusiastic and committed students, schools have a great chance to become leaders in organic waste recycling - and may even end up selling the worms they breed!

As project director of Schools For a Sustainable Future, Joseph Natoli can support schools in establishing their recycling and worming projects through seminars and as a consultant to individual schools.For further information, please contact: Joseph Natoli on  Phone: (03) 9579-7224



Compost worms and the Worming into the Community project offer outstanding educational outcomes.During the program, students undertake detailed waste audits which involve an excellent range of weighing, addition and tabling skills. Fascinating communication programs develop as the children work out how to persuade their fellow students (and teachers) to recycle their lunch scraps, waste paper and so on.In some schools detailed science experiments took place, where children, competing to grow the fattest worms, weighed them carefully each week and tabulated the result. Other classes took regular photos of their classroom bin, and observed how it changed over time.

The project generally leads to setting up some type of garden where children can see the effect of worm castings on plants. These are practical parts of the Living and Learning strands of the CSF. As part of the project I supply a copy of Worms eat our Garbage by Mary Appelhof as a teacher resource. This text is excellent in the way it uses worms to teach Math's, Language, Science and the Arts.Integrating the study of worms into the curriculum, into the school recycling system and as a part of broader behavioral change in the community is an outstanding first step in creating a Sustainable Future. I would urge every school to seriously consider implementing such a program.


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Schools For a Sustainable Future

1 Curdies St.
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Joe Natoli
Ph: (03) 9579-7224     Fax: (03) 9579-6153      Mobile: 0411-568-523


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