Happy Campers at Fairchild's Farm

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer camp at the Fairchild Farm is underway, and on the day I stopped in, the kids were studying worms. Worms! Noris Ledesma had collected earthworms so that each child could have his or her own worm and learn how to tell the head from the tail. Once they got over the shivers just looking at the worms, the children found they could handle them, dangle them in the air and even use them as face decoration.

Elizabeth Garcia, 7, knew why it’s important to have worms in the garden: “So plants can breathe better’’ she told Noris. And plants breathe better because worms provide air in the soil by moving through it. They increase water movement and make room for roots to grow.  They eat decaying matter and turn it into castings, or a kind of fertilizer.

Because worms don’t like light, the first worms studied were carefully tucked into the soil of the Farm’s herb garden before the next project – making lunch for worms to be grown in a worm bed. Lunch would consist of leaves, peelings and paper.

Ivan Castro and Nathaniel Padilla took pails to gather leaves; Emily Castor, Samantha Barthelemy, Marlene and Elizabeth Garcia were on the team that cut up peelings, leftover pasta, canistel, and even eggshells. Nelson Davis and Jordan Barthelemy tore old newspapers into tiny bits. Then, the ingredients were layered in a bin: paper, peelings, leaves; paper, peelings, leaves. Some 60 worms were gently places on top, and quickly wiggled out of sight. Water was carefully added. Next week, Noris told them, the leaf-peel-paper mix would look like dirt.

As I left, campers were reading, “There’s a Hair in My Dirt, A Worm’s Story’’ by Gary Larson.

Upcoming for the campers are days devoted to birds, turtles, frogs, chickens. A family of Miccosukee Indians will come and tell how they live in the Everglades, and the meanings of the colors and shapes of the cloth they sew into clothing.  Noris plans to have the kids plant a cactus garden as ell as a water garden to compare the way these two ecosystems affect plants. On health day, they will collect eggs from the farm’s chickens and make lunch (with an invited chef) from what grows at the farm this time of year, including herbs and avocados.

The month-long camp is being held in a gazebo made especially for these activities. There were 15 scholarships made available this summer. (For more informaiton, visit www.fairchildgarden.org and search for summer camp.)

My only question: When can adults have a turn?

Jordan Barthelemy and friend.
Ivan Castro 6, uses a magnifying glass to
find  his  earthworm. l
Noris Ledesma, right, helps the girls cut up
fruit peels to make lunch for the worms.
Nathaniel Padilla puts a worm in the
herb garden to live happily ever after.