2011-04-07 / Schools

E. Brunswick students get lesson from … worms?

Composting units given out to schools for studies on life cycles, recycling of waste
BY BRIAN DONAHUE
Staff Writer


Rich Hills, director of the Middlesex County Division of Solid Waste, conducts a training session for Irwin teacher Christine Connolly (l-r), Central teacher Christine Smith and Frost teacher Connieanne Rapuano on March 29. Rich Hills, director of the Middlesex County Division of Solid Waste, conducts a training session for Irwin teacher Christine Connolly (l-r), Central teacher Christine Smith and Frost teacher Connieanne Rapuano on March 29. EAST BRUNSWICK — Of the nearly 600 school districts in New Jersey, the township’s will likely be the first to equip each of its schools with composting units housing thousands of worms.

The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission recently made arrangements with the Middlesex County Division of Solid Waste to provide the units free of charge to each of the township’s 11 public schools.

“These are small units that are perfect for the classroom,” said Dave Moskowitz, president of the Friends group. “Each composter is started with about 1,000 or 2,000 worms and is fed vegetable scraps and even things like junk mail and scrap paper, quickly turning it into beautiful, rich compost.”

The first unit was put in place at East Brunswick High School last month and is being maintained by the SAVE (Students Against Violating the Environment) club.

Bowne-Munro Elementary School received its composter last week, and the other schools will receive theirs this month as the worms become available, Moskowitz said .

The composters are odor-free and easy to maintain, according to Moskowitz.

“While worms might seem a bit esoteric, worm composting is a great hands-on learning experience for students in all grades,” he said. “It provides an opportunity to engage students in discussions about our waste stream and where our garbage goes and options for its disposal. These are important topics for everyone, but especially in a town like East Brunswick that has a landfill within its borders. We are pretty certain that East Brunswick will be the only town in New Jersey where every school has a worm composter.”

TrudyA. Atkins, the school district’s supervisor of science and Gifted and Talented programs, said the composting units will be used for the science curriculum at all grade levels as the students study the various life cycles of organisms and the recycling of consumer and organic waste. The worms will be fed organic waste from the cafeteria, she said, and the students will monitor the moisture level of the units on a regular basis to be sure the worms have the correct environment to function properly.

“The composting units will also help foster responsibility, since the worms who live in them will be dependent upon the students for their nutrients and water,” Atkins said.

The mulch that the worms produce will be placed in the schools’ gardens, courtyards and surrounding flowerbeds, she said.

Rich Hills, director of the county Solid Waste division, assisted with the project and on March 29 conducted a training session for the teachers who will be getting the worm composters. Patricia LaDuca, director of community relations and programs for the school district, said about 17 principals and teachers attended the training session, representing all schools.

Superintendent of Schools Jo Ann Magistro thanked the Friends group for making the arrangements with the county for the free composting units. She noted that staff members were enthusiastic about learning to care for the “environmentally friendly classroom pets.”

“The worms turn kitchen vegetable scraps and even junk mail into rich, brown compost very quickly within their small, odorless compositing bins. I am confident the students will be excited to witness these decomposers in action, just as their teachers were on [March 29],” she said.

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