The Science of Vermicomposting with Children

When Sara’s little sister Abby went overseas for six months, she had no idea how much of an impact this hiatus would have on the life of her own family. As Abby traveled Asia with her husband, taking in the sites and absorbing the culture, Sara and her children were tasked with caring for a family of red wrigglers. 

Child holding a red wrigglerNow, first of all, you should know that red wrigglers do not live in the classic two-parent household with 2.5 kids, and one assorted pet you might expect to find in a typical American household; quite the contrary.  On the Saturday morning prior to embarking on her adventure, Abby brought over a small Tupperware container, roughly the size of a shoe box. As she described the upkeep required for these little invertebrates and poked around in the soil with a spoon, it quickly became evident that their household consisted of approximately a hundred or so one-to-two-inch, dark, burgundy crawlers.

Fear not. Red wrigglers require surprisingly little to survive: a bit of peat moss and newspaper, air, water, and some sort of food source. They do not like meat. They love coffee grounds, fruits, vegetables, and egg shells. Really, as you prepare dinner, you can simply toss the leftover scraps right into their bin. 

Sara’s children were enthralled. Here begins the important connection to science. Unbeknownst to Sara, these red wrigglers were merely a starting point for learning about composting and returning nutrients to the Earth. The castings of the red wrigglers (a fancy way of saying “manure”) are packed full of important nutrients that create a chemical-free way to enrich your garden soil. This may be important to you, but probably does not mean a lot to your children.

What is good for your children, however, is the experience of playing with nature right inside your own home (just don’t keep red wrigglers in front of vents where they can quickly become over-heated). Sara’s kids loved poking around in the red wriggler habitat so much, they do not want to give Aunt Abby her worms back when she returns home. 

In fact, considering the amount of time spent observing and learning about nature that might otherwise have been spent in front of a television, these red wrigglers may have been the best thing to happen to the family in a long time. Some of the little guys even have names (the three-year-old thinks he can recognize certain ones based on sight coupled with behavior). And, as mentioned, this little family is giving back to the earth, albeit in a small, simple way. Aunt Abby might not even miss the extra hundred or so worms that won’t be returning home with her next month.