From left: Ballenas students Dru Hocking and Maja Juralowicz, along with Foods teacher Monica Bradbury, show off their vermi-compost bins at the Ballenas courtyard garden. Hocking and Juralowicz have recently introduced two of the bins into new classrooms. — Adam Kveton Photo

Parksville youth put worms to work in compost project

Ballenas Secondary students, teacher aim to keep food waste out of landfills

Grade 8 students Dru Hocking and Maja Juralowicz’s faces light up as they discuss one of their new interests.

But they’re not talking about a new singer, dance craze, video game or Hollywood star.

They’re talking about dirt — specifically dark black, crumbly, healthy soil that will help plants grow.

The dirt comes out of their Grade 8 foods teacher’s vermi-compost bin in her class at Ballenas Secondary School. The pair are hoping the two vermi-compost bins they’ve made and put into classes will come out looking the same by the end of the year, and that they might inspire more teachers to take them on, and more students to think about composting as well.

Hocking and Juralowicz came up with the idea to make and place vermi-compost bins in more classes as part of a foods group project that teacher Monica Bradbury assigned, asking students to come up with ways to reduce waste and help clean up the school.

The students presented their projects at a school board meeting in late January.

Other ideas included having garbage, recycling and compost containers right next to each other in the school (as now they are all separate and in different places), and scheduling a monthly school clean-up day, during which student volunteers would go around at lunch picking up garbage. Students are working at implementing that last idea as well.

But the vermi-compost bins are already in a pair of classrooms, collecting food waste and turning it into useable compost.

The bins are made with large Rubbermaid containers and include some dirt and a variety of worms and some bugs that break down the food waste, turning it into rich soil. That soil, in turn, will later go into the school’s courtyard garden, or into the PASS-Woodwinds garden that started up last year, said Bradbury.

The bins are sealed, so there is no smell issue, though some things like onions and large bits of food waste can’t go into them, explained Hocking and Juralowicz. Their job over the rest of the year will be to monitor what goes into the bins.

They said they went with this idea to make the school and students more eco-friendly, and reduce the waste the school produces.

“Everything edible goes into the garbage,” said Juralowicz. “It’s pretty bad.”

Bradbury’s foods class has already seen the effect of the compost bins she uses, with the number of garbage cans needed going down in the last few years.

“We’re saving a significant amount (of waste) from the landfill,” she said. “And we’re making nice soil for the gardens.”

She said she hoped the vermi-compost bins might inspire students and others to try them out at home as well.

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