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updated: 7/7/2011 2:33 PM

Worms go to middle school, college

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  • Ken Schaffer, Naturalist at Oakton Community College, explains outdoor composting with plant matter, leaves and tree branches/twigs.

      Ken Schaffer, Naturalist at Oakton Community College, explains outdoor composting with plant matter, leaves and tree branches/twigs.
    Courtesy of SWANCC

  • Science teacher Andy Duerkop cuts up leftover food from school lunches for the students' worm bin project. The school's ongoing worm bin is in the background.

      Science teacher Andy Duerkop cuts up leftover food from school lunches for the students' worm bin project. The school's ongoing worm bin is in the background.
    Courtesy of SWANCC

  • Worms wiggle in the hands of pre school students at Oakton Community College.

      Worms wiggle in the hands of pre school students at Oakton Community College.
    Courtesy of SWANCC

 
Submitted by Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County

Under the direction of Ken Schaffer, naturalist, grounds keeper and Ecology Club adviser for Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Oaks preschool students house and maintain an indoor worm composting bin that was provided by the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County as part of its Waste Reduction Grant Program.

Worms process organic matter such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells and paper.

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After worms eat this food, the castings, or compost, can be used in the garden as a soil amendment or fertilizer.

During the week, students feed the worms leftover fruit and vegetable scraps from their lunches, reducing the waste going into the garbage.

Schaffer not only educates the preschoolers about the care and benefits of vermi-composting, but invites them outdoors to tour a garden he started last year.

In the raised beds that he and student volunteers built. Asparagus, lettuce, carrots, strawberries, onions, broccoli and more grow in an area over water tanks that are no longer in service.

During the growing season, a variety of the fruits and vegetables are donated to the Maine Township Food Pantry on a weekly basis.

Under the direction of Andy Duerkop, a science teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge, a select group of students volunteered to stay after school to make a worm bin to take home to compost food scraps. Duerkop promotes reduce, reuse, recycle and compost activities at Lincoln Middle School by having an ongoing worm bin in his classroom that students help maintain, as well as other waste reduction initiatives, such as conducting a waste audit and selling CFL light bulbs.

"Composting is an important part of waste reduction," stated Mary Allen, SWANCC's recycling and education director. "Approximately 12 percent of the waste generated is made up of food that gets thrown away. Through composting, this waste can be turned into something useful and beneficial for growing food, plants and flowers, instead of sending it to the landfill."

For information on composting or other recycling programs and resources, visit swancc.org.

The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) is an intergovernmental agency that was established in 1988 and is comprised of 23 communities: Arlington Heights, Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Kenilworth, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Palatine, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows, Skokie, South Barrington, Wheeling, Wilmette and Winnetka.

SWANCC provides member residents a variety of waste reduction and recycling services, programs and resource materials. These include collections for special materials that cannot go into the curbside recycling cart or should not go into the garbage because of toxicity or recoverability, such as: computer and electronics, prescription drugs and sharps, compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, mercury thermometers, athletic shoes, holiday lights and batteries.

Visit swancc.org for information.

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