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Big Foot High School going green with worms

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Kayla Bunge
February 16, 2008

Apple cores, banana peels and coffee grounds soon could find their way out of the trash and into a compost bin at Big Foot High School.


Ag teacher Rick Henningfeld wants the school to try vermicomposting, a process by which worms convert organic waste into nutrient-rich, natural fertilizer.


“I want to show them that there are options for what to do with waste instead of tossing it into the garbage,” he said.


Henningfeld received a $100 grant from Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom to buy supplies for his “Got Worms?” project, which highlights the importance of worms in agriculture. Students in plant science will study how worms affect soil and plant growth, and students in agriscience will study the anatomy and physiology of worms. The natural resource class will learn about composting.


But it won’t just be the high school students who’ll get their hands on the worms. FFA students will take “suitcase lessons” to Walworth Elementary School as part of the Partners in Active Learning Support (PALS) program.


“We want them to learn along with us,” said Alicia Hodnik, a junior at Big Foot.


The high school launched its PALS program last year. Developed by the National FFA Organization, PALS is a mentoring program that matches high school ag students with elementary school students.


“Most children…don’t have a really good grasp of what (agriculture) is,” Hodnik said. “Most of them think it’s just a farmer.”


The FFA students spend about half an hour once a week with fourth-graders using hands-on lessons to teach them about major topics in agriculture. Last year, for example, the students grew marigolds and raised quail eggs.


Henningfeld said he’s wanted to expand the PALS program, and the worms are a perfect addition.


And not only that, but the worms fit right in with the high school’s efforts to be more environmentally friendly. Last year, the school began recycling paper, glass and plastic.


For Henningfeld, it goes back to a different three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.


“There are things they can do even at their home that can reduce waste, that are beneficial for the environment,” he said. “I want them to see there’s other options out there.”



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