Many schools around the county use worm bins to compost some or all of their lunch waste. Our staff can help you set up your own composting program, or assist you in troubleshooting an existing program.
Each composting school has a unique system designed to best meet their needs. In the past, we have converted raised beds into worm bins, we’ve had parent volunteers construct worm bins, and we’ve received donations of Macro Agricultural bins. We can offer technical help and materials. Contact us to learn more.
Start a worm bin by buying red wigglers online from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
Learn about worms with The Adventures of Herman, an educational website.
Sign up for our Vermicomposting program to have one of our staff members teach your class about vermicomposting.
Check out our educational videos on composting to teach students more about the process.
Grover Heights Elementary
Grover Heights 4th and 6th grade students are currently using a raised garden bed as a worm bin to compost the salad bar leftovers on a daily basis. They have been vermicomposting for one year, and their worm bin is located fairly close to the lunch area. At Grover Heights, students will collect the waste, dig the hole to bury the food waste, and cover it back up. Teachers demonstrated the process for the students before the students took over. The finished compost goes into the garden beds. 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.
Lillian Larsen Elementary
Lillian Larsen 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 sort the lunch waste and the middle school students dig the hole and bury the food waste. The students at Lillian Larsen use the finished compost in the school garden planter boxes. Christina Wilkinson looks after the program and advises someone interested in starting their own program 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 recommends getting as many students involved as possible. Christina has a lot of great project ideas to tie into school curriculum, such as weighing food scraps to see how much waste can be diverted from the landfill.
Fairgrove Elementary has been composting since the spring of 2016 and intermittently 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 notes that decomposition happens with or without worms; all you need is a few buckets, shovels and an area for the composting to happen. Fairgrove lunch staff collect salad bar leftovers in a bucket, and students and staff dispose of personal food waste in 5 gallon buckets conveniently placed by garbage and recycling bins. Oftentimes 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 worm bin attracting flies, but it has not been a problem since they make sure food waste is completely buried.
Sinsheimer Elementary has been composting 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 up food scraps, and bury them twice a week. Christy Gullo and Annie Wallorinta believe that keeping the job simple and perceived as important helps the success of their program. They also feel that the vermicomposting education program fits in perfectly before they start the worminator jobs. Sinsheimer Elementary diverts food waste from going into the landfill, and they use the finished compost in their school garden, occasionally sending some home with lucky Sinsheimer families.
Baywood Elementary has been participating in the IWMA vermicomposting program now for over 10 years. At the beginning of each school year, the students are traditionally taught an organized way of separating their lunch waste into the recycling, compost and trash bins. Custodian Scott McLongstreet organizes the student cleanup process and facilitates the burying of student lunch waste in the nearby worm bin. The worm bin location and custodial support are keys to the continued vermicompostng success at Baywood.
Bauer-Speck Elementary in Paso Robles has a 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.
Oceano 5th and 6th grade students have been turning food waste into usable compost for eight years now. Teacher Jim DeCecco digs the disposal hole in a worm bin every morning so he can monitor the bins, which are behind the cafeteria in a spot that he wouldn’t ordinarily walk by. At Oceano, composting is a student-led program. Select students are stationed at containers and help 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 also use the finished compost in the school garden.