Market educates kids on earthworms

Aug. 06, 2014 @ 05:56 AM

Slimy, chilly, squishy earthworms writhed in a blue bowl at the Sawmills Farmers Market Kids Corner on Tuesday. Mazes, coloring pages, a book on worms, worm fact pages and a diagram of the worm’s body parts also sat on the table as part of Caldwell County Health Department’s “Earthworm Education” activity.

Children who visited the table learned about the importance of earthworms and were able to handle the worms from the bowl. When asked what the worms were, 10-year-old Ryan Philyaw immediately answered, “Fish bait.”

However, earthworms are also a vital part of how the farmers market provides community members with healthy, organic produce, said Virginia Lopez, health education intern at the health department. Lopez said that the worms eat dead leaves and bugs. When the food matter passes through the worm, called a “casting,” it provides nutrients to the soil. The earthworms also oxygenate the soil.

“So if you see one, don’t kill it,” Lopez said to the children. “Put it in your garden.”

One worm tried to make a getaway. Lopez had placed him on a wet wipe so that children could see the worm as they approached the table. However, the worm had other plans in mind as he pulled himself along the wipe and onto the tablecloth. On the hunt for food and soil, it crawled across the checkered plastic and reached the edge of the table. As it slid over the side, Lopez reached out and caught it with a plastic fork just before the final plunge to freedom.

Reece Anderson, 3, came over to hold a worm. He was initially curious about the strange invertebrate.

“What’s it doing?” he asked.

Lopez explained he was looking for food and how that helped gardens grow. She placed a worm in Reece’s outstretched hand. He immediately made a face mixed with disgust and fascination. The worm squirmed and wriggling, thrashing so hard it fell from Reece’s hand.

“He really likes you,” Lopez said.

But Reece was left unconvinced.

Amberlin Wilcox, 11, shuddered when the worm touched her hand.

“Oh! That’s cold,” she squealed and immediately put the worm back in the bowl of dirt.

The Sawmills Farmers Market is open every Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. until the end of October.