Lincoln Academy IDEAL students sorting worm castings in their new worm vermiculture bins. They will combine the castings with soil to grow lettuce.

Students in Lincoln Academy’s IDEAL (Innovatively Designed Education for All Learners) program have started a composting project with worms with the help of Jock Robie of Gorham, Maine, an expert in worm composting, otherwise known as vermiculture.

Robie visited the IDEAL program earlier in April and taught students how to set up and feed worm bins with compost. They are now caring for about 800 worms in the IDEAL classroom. The students are responsible for feeding them food scraps every two weeks. Harvesting of the casting will happen every 3-4 months. Robie will return in the fall to help with harvesting and dividing the bins.

”Jock is a lovely person, so knowledgeable about worms and casting,” said Janna Civittolo, Director of Lincoln Academy’s IDEAL program. “The students gained so much from the hands on harvesting experience.”

With Robie’s help the students harvested 6.5 pounds of worm casting, which they will be using for a lettuce seedling experiment to determine the optimal percentage of worm castings to put in soil for optimum lettuce production.

Robie is passionate about vermiculture, which helps keep food waste out of the solid waste system as well as producing valuable compost for gardening. He travels around the state educating people on how to keep their own worm composting systems.

“He was a very well spoken and informative person. I learned that worms eat rotting food and process it into something that is really useful for growing plants,” said junior Steven Baldwin.

The worms used in vermiculture are red wigglers, which are smaller than earthworms. Each pound of worms contains about 100 individuals. Vermiculture is easy for any household to undertake with a simple plastic storage bin, some soil, wet newspaper, and food scraps.