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Outdoor Classroom: Winter Fun with Garden Worms!

IT MAY BE COLD OUTSIDE, BUT THE WORMS SURVIVE!

I have found that lots of little children love finding worms in the garden and the Outdoor Classroom is a great place to set up a worm composting center. 


                     Four yr old girls observing worms found in the classroom garden

All photos by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

The bigger the worm bin, the better, as it will better withstand extremes of weather.

You can also weather-proof your worm bin by providing a thick layer of bedding over the worms and always keeping the lid on! 

The worms raised in a worm bin are not the same variety as the big fat earth worms found in a healthy garden plot. You have to purchase your first group of red worms for the bin from a local supplier. This is the link for locating a worm supplier in my area (Northern CA) CA. Govt worm suppliers. And, you will have to look up the suppliers in your area. Most will deliver!

Here is a great website with lots of suggestions for winterizing your worm bin: Winter Worm Composting from wormcomposinghq.com

One of the all-time favorite worm care activities for the Preschool children is preparing "bedding" for the worms in your worm bin. Little kids really relate to making the worms feel cozy, and so creating the worm bedding makes sense to these children who get tucked in every night in their own warm beds at home!

        Taking care of the worm bin for the 
Preschool Outdoor Classroom


It's important to keep lots of bedding in the worm bin during the cold months and also during the hot months of the year.
To prepare bedding:

  1. First, provide lots of newspaper for the children to tear into strips. (The thinner the strips the better) This is, of course, a very fun activity for young children...even the tiny ones can tear newspaper strips! I always take out the heavily colored newspaper pages and I never put slick paper in the worm bin as these heavily processed sheets can be harmful to the worms.
  2. I have the children fill large trash bags with the torn paper. Lots of fun, too!
  3. Next, give the children little spray bottles full of clean water and invite them to spray down the paper scraps in the trash bag...get it nice and wet!
  4. Then, close up the bag, fasten it tightly,  and let it sit over night.
  5. The next day you can take the trash bags full of dampened paper scraps out to the worm bin and lay the "bedding" carefully on top of the dirt where the worms live in the bin.
  6. Make sure the worms have plenty of food scraps and that their environment is damp before putting the bedding on top.(Then lift the bedding, as if lifting a "blanket" when you next feed & water the worms.) 
           Preschooler putting food scraps into the worm bin for "feeding time!" 


I'm almost certain you probably have little children who are wild about garden worms! The worm bin is fun for those children, especially if they are provided with child-size gardening gloves. The worms also appreciate having their environment "aerated", so I always have small plastic handheld "rakes" available for the children who love to explore the worm bin. Plastic works best here so that the tools don't actually injure the worms!


          Preschoolers "aerating" the worm bin




You can find little plastic "rakes" or "forks" at places like Target and Home Depot during the gardening season. However, my favorites are these eco-friendly tools available on Amazon. Here's an example at this link:Twygz children's hand tools from Amazon

Our preschool was given a worm bin from the County Agricultural Exchange and it is equipped with 3 trays for moving the worm compost (or droppings, called "worm castings") down as the worms move upwards toward the food supply. Then, the lower tray collects the "worm tea" which can be retrieved by turning the spigot located on the lower right hand side of the bin. Here's a fantastic link where you can find out how to do this and purchase a worm bin, too!
http://www.naturesfootprint.com/worm-factory
The Worm Factory also sells on Amazon at this link: The Worm Factory Worm Bin.

The "worm tea" is gathered by the children in child-size buckets and then poured throughout the garden as a wonderful organic fertilizer!




So, if the cold weather is preventing your children from digging in the garden when the soil is hard-packed and maybe even frozen...the worm bin could use some tender loving winter-time care.♡
P.S. For the Montessori-style classroom, don't forget to set out the "Parts of the Worm" booklet-making activity indoors!




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