Many schools around the county use worm bins to compost some or all of their lunch waste… are you one of them?
If you need help with your current composting program or would like to start one, our friendly IWMA staff would be delighted to get you set up, or provide technical help and materials for your program.
Each composting school has a unique system designed to best meet their needs. Raised beds can be converted into worm bins very easily, parent volunteers have constructed worm bins, and Macro Agricultural bins have been donated.
Grover Heights Elementary ~ Grover Heights 4th and 6th grade students are currently using a raised garden bed to as a worm bin to compost the salad bar leftovers on a daily basis. Their worm bin is located fairly close to the lunch area. At Grover Heights, the students will collect the waste, dig the hole to bury the food waste, and cover it back up. The teachers demonstrated the process with the students and then the students took over. The finished compost will go into the garden beds. They have been vermicomposting at the school for one year. Mr. Griffin recommends to start by speaking with the custodians, he feels that they must be involved for the longevity of the program.
Monarch Grove Elementary ~ Monarch Grove 4th and 5th grade students have been involved in school wide vermicomposting for approximately seven years now. They have been fortunate enough to have active parent volunteers to look after the program and build the worm bin right next to the lunch area. At Monarch Grove, they start the school year by teaching the students what goes into the 3 lunch waste collection bins – compost, recycling, and garbage. Parent volunteers and select 4th and 5th grade students dig the hole to bury the food waste and also monitor the lunch waste bins. They collect the food waste from both the student lunch waste and the salad bar every day, but they bury it three days a week. The finished compost is used in the school garden and also sold at the school’s open house. Garden Team Member, Jessie Gade, recommends getting the students to take this on as their own project for a better connection and buy-in. Having the custodians on board is also very helpful.
Oceano Elementary ~ Oceano 5th and 6th grade students have been turning food waste into usable compost for eight years now. Teacher, Jim DeCecco, digs the hole in the worm bin every morning, that way he is forced to monitor the worm bins as they are behind the cafeteria in a spot that he wouldn’t ordinarily walk by. At Oceano Elementary, composting is a student led program, the students are stationed at containers and help the other students to separate food waste as they go through a line. They collect and bury food waste from student lunches and salad bar leftovers every day. Jim feels like it is important to have a committed principal for the program to succeed. Not only do they keep a lot of food waste out of the landfill, they use the finished compost in the school garden.
Oceano Elementary Worm Bin Photos
Lillian Larsen ~ Lillian Larsen School in San Miguel has been vermicomposting since 2001. They use two old planter boxes as worm bins to bury the food waste from the cafeteria on a daily basis. The cafeteria staff help the students with sorting the lunch waste and the middle school students dig the hole and bury the food waste. Christina Wilkinson looks after the program and states that the best advice that she can give to someone interested in starting a composting program is to be patient and persistent. It takes a while for adults to change their ideas and routines, but it takes very little time for students to get into routines. She also feels like it is a great idea to get as many students involved as possible. Christina also has many great project ideas to tie into curriculum such as weighing the food scraps to see how much waste can be diverted from the landfill. The students at Lillian Larsen use the finished compost in the school garden planter boxes.
Fairgrove Elementary ~ Fairgrove Elementary has been composting since the spring of 2016 and off and on in previous years. The 3rd – 5th grade students help teacher, Diane Dolden with the process of digging the hole in the worm bin and burying the food waste. They are currently using half of a raised bed with the goal of getting the whole bed set up for vermicomposting. Diane states that decomposition happens with or without worms; all you need is a few buckets, shovels, and and area for the composting to happen. Fairgrove mainly composts the salad bar leftovers by giving a bucket to the lunch staff, and also informally collects student and staff food waste with more 5 gallon buckets conveniently placed by the garbage and recycling bins. Often times they will ask students to stand at the food waste buckets to remind the others what to compost. Diane notes that some staff worried about the bin attracting flies, but it was not a problem as they made sure the the food waste was completely buried.
Sinsheimer Elementary ~ Sinsheimer Elementary has been composing for about 10 years now. The third grade classes rotate the responsibility of maintaining, collecting, and composting food waste in macro bins that have been converted into worm bins. The students participate in the IWMA vermicomposting program as an introduction, then are trained to be “worminators”. They collect food waste daily from both the salad bar and student lunch waste, chop the food scraps up, and bury it twice a week. Christy Gullo and Annie Wallorinta believe that keeping the job simple and important help with the success of their program. They also feel that the vermicomposting program fits in perfectly before they start the worminator jobs. Not only does Sinsheimer Elementary divert food waste from going into the landfill, they use the finished compost in their school garden and occasionally send some home with some lucky Sinsheimer families.
Baywood Elementary ~ Baywood Elementary has been participating in the IWMA vermicomposting program now for over 10 years. At the beginning of each school year, the students have traditionally been taught an incredibly organized way of separating their lunch waste into the recycling, compost, and trash bins. Custodian Scott McLongstreet organizes the student clean up process and facilitates the burying all of the student lunch waste in the nearby worm bin. The worm bin location and custodian support are the keys to the continued vermicompostng success at Baywood.
Bauer-Speck Elementary ~ Bauer Speck elementary in Paso Robles has an amazingly lush garden in the middle of the lunch blacktop area. They have been rotating their garden beds with their vermicomposting bed for the past few years and the plants are loving it. Bauer-Speck is in a transitional period with their vermicomposting program as teachers come and go, but we have high hopes for the students to keep feeding the worms that will then feed their plants. Bauer Speck has done an amazing job of keeping food waste out of our landfills for many years, and it is our wish for them to continue to do so as new amazing teachers step up to the challenge of composting our food waste.