Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What an exciting day in Wormville!!!

One of the cocoons hatched two baby worms today! I had the cocoons in a clear bag so we could see them when they hatch.
We got an awesome new toy called the EyeClops Bionic Eye! It takes pictures and videos at 100, 200, and 400 times magnification! The video below is of the second baby at 200X magnification!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


We got all of the food blended up and ready for the worms and Shannon and Shoma shredded the newspaper. Before we could add the new bedding we had to separate the worms from all of their castings so there would be room for the new food and new bedding. With a whole lot of shaking we got the worms out and ready for their new environment. Unfortunately, since the fruit and veggies had been frozen it was too cold to add the worms. But what I didn't realize was that there were still about 20 worms hidden in some castings at the bottom of the bucket when we added the food. During a brave rescue attempt I fished them out from the frozen ground up food. They were a little cold, but with Wes's help, we warmed them up! So the worms had to spend the night last night in a little box while they waited for the bed to warm! This morning they made their way into their new home and quickly worked their way down into the bedding.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Bedding

When I got to Potentials this morning I saw that a few (10 ish) worms were trying to escape the top bin of the original green worm bin, which again, is not a good sign. I'm not sure if they are the same worms that I just put in there from the "food-only" bin or some other ones. Either way, it looks like the bins have been completely composted now, and the worms are ready for some new bedding and fresh new food. The worms essentially need two things, bedding and food. The bedding can be newspaper, cardboard, or dead leaves, and the best food is fruit and veggie scraps.

I brought in my fruit and veggie scraps from home and we can chop them up today to feed to the worms. I keep the food frozen so that it does not smell while we are preparing it for the worms. This bag has used tea leaves, apple cores and peels, cucumber peels, eggshells and broccoli stalks. The food does not HAVE to be chopped, but it makes it easier for the worms to eat and digest. So this afternoon the kids will use the "Airlink" to turn on the food processor and chop up the frozen fruits and veggies. The Airlink is a piece of assistive technology that gives the children control over turning on electrical appliances. We just plug in the appliance, and set the dials and when the kids push the switch the appliance turns on for a predetermined amount of time. The switch is cordless and sends an infrared signal to the Airlink module. Being cordless allows us to bring the switch to each child with the restriction of a short wire.
The kids will also send some newspaper through the shredder and tear up some corrugated cardboard to make the bedding.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I had to free the worms from the "food-only" bin today. They were trying to escape from the nasty, smelly, congealed mess of rotting pumpkin! A bunch of worms had crawled up the sides of the container which is a tell tale sign that something is wrong. So if you voted for food only...sorry, that part of the experiment had to be aborted due to dying worms and mass quantities of maggots gathering!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harvest Season

If only I had more time in each day...
Today I harvested the worm castings from the bottom bucket which has been working for almost a month. We got a great harvest, but I had wanted to put it in the garden while it is super fresh. I just ran out of time, and had to leave for the long weekend. In harvesting the castings I found something pretty exciting (for those of you who get excited about this kind of stuff)!

Any guesses as to what it might be?
Here's a close up......

It's a cocoon! There are so many of them in the buckets!
We're having babies!!

Actually we already had some! They are easiest to see in the bin with just paper, but unfortunately the picture came out pretty blurry. The baby is just about in the center of the picture. See it? Check back next week and I will try to find a baby and get a better picture.

**To clear up any confusion, I learned that worms DO mate. Any worm can mate with any other worm because in effect they are all males and are all females.**

The worms in the experimental bin have begun to really change too. The Bin with just food is pretty nasty. It is a stinky gelatinous mess where there seem to be more maggots surviving than worms. That bin may be aborted very soon. Thankfully the bins are OUTSIDE.

The bin with a combo of food and paper is doing much better. There is a nice supply of castings building up on the bottom, and the worms are alive and active.

The bin with just paper is pretty neat to. In this bin you can really see the castings because there are no coffee grounds to get confused with castings. The interesting thing about this bin is that many of the castings look just like paper... worm-poop-shaped paper!!
If it wasn't that we are thinking of using this experiment as our science fair project I would immediately abort the all-food bin, and add the paper only worms back to the original bin. I think that the worms need more than just paper to live on, but at the same time, need some 'bedding' to break up the food particles. Anyone else have ideas about this? Just leave your ideas in the comments so others can read.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Garden Progress

The butterflies have begun to find our flowers! Here is one on the lantana plant. Click on the picture, then look carefully to see the proboscis which is like a straw through which the butterfly eats.

The veggies in the garden are doing well. The pole green beans are doing exceptionally well, ,and have begun to sprout from the seeds that Jodi, Ashtyn, and Frankie planted during the garden party on the 14th of November. We expect that these plants will grow very tall, eventually covering the trellis along the sides and even across the top. From what I have read, we should be able to harvest some beans in just a couple of months.

If you look real carefully in between the two flowers is a tiny sprout. This is a baby eggplant sprout. If you click the picture it will enlarge and you may be able to see it better.
We look forward to watching our little sprouts grow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Experimental Worm Bins

The experimental worm bins are progressing well.
We have been keeping the three bins in the outside storage closet for a few reasons.
1. Protects the worms from temperature swings
2. The worms need darkness, light dries out their skin
3. We did not want to keep the bins inside because the food may attract ants or other pests.

The bin with just moist paper has some castings beginning to accumulate around the sides and on the bottom. The bin with just food had a mold problem over the weekend, but the mold was mostly gone in the morning...I think the worms feasted on it! I have read that mold is just another natural part of the decomposition process. The third bin with a combination of food and paper looks pretty good as well. It is hard to tell if there are castings in the two bins with food in them because there are coffee grounds, and it is hard to tell the castings from the coffee until we harvest the castings.

Can you find the worms in each of the pictures??

If you click on the pictures you will see a larger picture!

The main bin is doing really well! The worms have been feasting on the pumpkin and coffee grounds. They are very active, especially overnight when it is very dark in the building. In the morning when I lift the black plastic to check on them, they all begin to dive into the darkness.

Here they are in action (just push play!)

Just stop by and ask, and I would be happy to introduce you to the newest members of our Potentials family :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Garden Party 2008

Our garden party was a great success!!
Unfortunately the parents were stuck in their meeting a little longer than expected, so they were not able to be there, but the kids pulled it off with help from the wonderful Potentials staff.

The kids chose whether they wanted to plant vegetables at the base of the trellis, plant flowers around the tree, paint the shelves, or set up the worm experiments.

Ashtyn and Frankie chose to plant veggies. After adding some fresh soil to the beds that Xavier dug, they planted cucumbers, squash, and pole green beans, with help from Jodi. They were on their bellies so they could access the ground better and work on goals at the same time. Great job girls!

Brenna chose to plant flowers around the tree with help from Faydel.

The flowers look beautiful!

Ari, Caitlin, Joao and Haley chose to paint the shelves.

They had help from Kim and Keiser University OT student, Ashley

It is coming along great!

Ronald, Shoma and Bruno, Will and Wes chose to help harvest the worm castings and set up one of our worm experiments. This group had help from Gabriella, Helen, and Bekah.
First we harvested the worm castings by pouring some of the bin contents on to a screen and shaking the screen as the castings fell through into the black bin. Anything that was left in the screen went back into the bins. The worm castings looked like dark rich soil without a smell, and the left over contents was mostly uneaten leaves. Worm castings are believed by some to be the best fertilizer on earth. Maybe we will experiment with different fertilizers later in the year, and find out for ourselves!

Next, Helen, Ronald and Alan drilled holes in three tupperware bins. Then we filled one with moistened newspaper strips, one with food scraps, and one with a combination of the two (paper and food). Finally we added 25 worms to each bin. We are waiting to see which bin will be composted by the worms first. Any guesses? You can cast your vote on the left side of the main page of this blog. Justin used our new switch accessible camera to take all of the pictures in this posting with help from Alan to aim the camera.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nova OT Students in the Garden

One of the OT students from Nova helped to adapt a digital camera into a switch activated camera. So now the kids can take the pictures of happenings at school! We had to solder one wire to one contact point inside the camera and the other wire to the second contact point. When the kids push the switch. the connection is completed, and the camera snaps a picture!

We changed out the switch so it is now a simple push switch rather than this pull style switch. Thanks Leshia for helping to create this great camera!!

One of the kids will take all of the pictures of the garden party.

Another OT student from Nova built shelves for our garden so the kids can do planting in their wheelchairs, gait trainers, or while standing and holding on to the shelves. There is now a shelf on either side of the raised garden bed. We decided to use shelves instead of building more raised beds because we realized that pressure treated wood has chemicals in it that are not good to have near soil that will hold edible plants. With the shelves we can garden in safe containers while still being accessible to the children.

Check back in a few days to see the garden party pictures!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thank You Xavier and Karina

We must give a big Thank You to Wesley's brother Xavier Gray for all of his help in the garden! He came to Potentials on his day off from school to help us dig our garden beds. On November 11, Veterans Day, Xavier and his mom Karina dug out beds on both sides of the new garden trellis.

The plan is to plant some of our cucumber seedlings, pole beans, tomatoes in these beds. These plants all like to climb, so they will be perfect for harvesting off the trellis.

Karina also bought us some flowers to plant in the circle around the tree in the center of the garden. These will be planted during our gardening party on Friday.

Thank you Xavier and Karina!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Garden Party Plans

So here are my ideas for the Gardening Party. The kids will choose 1 of 4 activities to participate in with their family. Their choices will be...

1. Plant flowers in the circle around the tree (If we are allowed to buy flowers)

2. Dig out the bed at the base of the trellis on each side

3. Paint the new garden shelves to match the trellis

4. Set up the vermicompost (worms) bin experiments. We will have three small bins.

a. Paper scraps only
b. Food scraps only
c. Combination of food and paper

Be sure to vote on which option you think will be composted the fastest by the worms.
The voting section is to the left of the main page.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Garden Trellis

Well, Dave and Mr. V have pulled through! They built the garden arbor for us in two days!

It looks great, and we can't wait until our gardening party on November 14th when we will plant the climbing veggies. We are planning to plant cucumbers, tomatoes, and pole beans to climb the arbor. The cucumber plants are already started!

We started some other seeds today too in hopes that we will have some sprouts for the Gardening Party.

I have been putting the 'ing' in gardening party in bold because some people have been confused as to exactly what to expect. This is not the tea and crumpets type of party. It is more of a working in the garden party. Parents will be helping get the plants into the ground or into proper pots. They will also be helping to dig out the garden bed at the base of the trellis which is now just sod. This is a chance for parents, kids, and staff to all work together to do something good for the environment! I hope you will join us for our GardenING Party on Friday November 14 after the PTO meeting.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Worm Composting Day 1

On Halloween we received our worm composting system. This system consists of two stackable buckets. The kit came with two bags of 'bedding' for the worms and 1000 red worms. The bedding looked like partially composted leaves and other organic matter.The instructions stated that we should dampen the bedding prior to placing the worms. The kids helped us to wet the bedding using a watering can.

Then came the fun part, inspecting and adding the worms!
We are told that the worms will dive down into the soil whenever they are exposed to light. So we will left the bin uncovered for about 15 minutes before covering with the black plastic sheets. Lastly, we stacked the buckets as instructed, and will wait to see what happens. We hope to have some great fertilizer in a few weeks!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Potentials South Accessible Garden

As always, when we get an idea at Potentials the support we get from our families and staff help our ideas to grow and grow. This year at Potentials South we have decided to build an accessible garden. Last year an Occupational Therapy (OT) student from Nova helped us build our first raised garden bed where the kids could either roll up in their wheelchairs or stand and hold the edge. We successfully grew tomatoes and some funny looking carrots. This year we plan to expand the garden to make room for more veggies, herbs, and flowers. We hope to have help building a trellis or arbor so the kids can harvest the veggies without needing to get down on the ground. We also hope to build raised beds around the circular portion of our sidewalk for more planting. Here is a picture of the space we are working with. The playground is to the right, and the raised bed is visible to the left.