The Power of the Worm

One of my favorite things about serving with FoodCorps is engaging with the community! Last week, parent and community volunteers came together to malama our mala (care for our garden) at Kua O Ka La Hawaiian Culture Focused Public Charter School in Pahoa, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

At Kua O Ka La, parent and community involvement is key to the culture and function of its unique programming- project and ‘aina (land) based learning. About 30 volunteers came to the work day in full force to transform some overgrown spaces on campus and make room for our garden to thrive.

gardenworkday9-24-16Volunteers at work cleaning up the garden

Volunteers also constructed a unique vermicompost system (worm composting)  for our garden. Worm compost systems are such a great learning tool and I couldn’t wait to get it set up and functioning. From worm anatomy and life cycles to measuring and graphing worms and talking about food webs and ecosystems, worm bins are a special learning tool for connecting gardens to curriculum while also creating a wonderful amendment for our soil.

The younger students who came helped sift the worms out of the vermicast to be used to fertilize our garden. I love having them guess which end is the head and which end is the tail!

siftingwormsJoe Wat, fellow Hawai‘i Service Member sifts worms with students

Meanwhile, parents and older students helped put the bin together. It is about engaging everyone- from the littlest to the biggest- in creating the school garden. Everyone is invited and we all have something to bring to the table.

wormbinVolunteers put the worm bin together. This bin was designed by a local builder from roofing and a sheet of plywood- a simple, elegant, and functional worm bin that can be recreated almost anywhere.

fertilizerJoe shows students how to utilize worm castings as fertilizer

It is truly rewarding to see a community gather around a school garden. I am consistently amazed by how much a group can accomplish compared to working alone. A strong volunteer force also contributes to the long- term staying power of a school garden program. In my first year at Kua O Ka La and second year as a FoodCorps Service Member, I see my service as the missing piece that is needed to connect the parts that are already there- supportive and enthusiastic parents, farmers, students, teachers, and administration. And I’m realizing that sometimes all it takes is the humble worm to bring a community together.