Inspiring Positive Change In A Scottish School
by Anna de la Vega
There is nowhere The Urban Worm won’t travel in the name of vermiculture, and the opportunity to bring the worms to Dollar Academy in the spring of 2021 was a welcome change of scenery after what felt like a lifetime of lockdown. Situated in 70 acres near the picturesque market town of Dollar, Clackmannanshire in central Scotland, the school is home to 1,300 pupils aged 5-18, and 12,000 tiger worms.
In response to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals the school is looking to reduce its environmental impact wherever it can, and looking at the canteen waste was a good place to start. Rotting food waste makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, emitting both methane and nitrous oxide, 31 and 310 times stronger than carbon dioxide respectively. Worm farming provides solutions for managing organic waste onsite, and reduces the need for fossil fuel driven vehicles whilst producing a supply of nutrient rich organic fertiliser as a byproduct.
This nutrient-rich fertiliser, otherwise known as worm manure or worm castings, will be used within the 70 acre grounds, promoting a circular economy. Worm manure contains all 14 nutrients essential for healthy plant growth and disease suppression, is teeming with beneficial microorganisms, and contains the natural insecticide chitinase, eliminating the need for costly and harmful artificial fertilisers.
During our time at Dollar Academy we built and established two 1100 litre worm farms, each housing 6 kilograms (or 6000) tiger worms, to process 6 kilos of canteen waste daily. The canteen and grounds team could not have been more on board and as a result the worm farms are flourishing, and everyone is looking forward to the first harvest next growing season. Engaging the students is paramount to the ethos and culture of the school and we had the opportunity to spend our last day delivering sessions for the pupils, a welcome opportunity after many months of being unable to deliver face to face education and workshops.
Dollar Academy is certainly a progressive school with a drive to steer and inspire positive change, both within the school and within the local community. It was an absolute pleasure to visit this magnificent part of the world and work with such an engaged team. We know for certain the worms are in excellent hands and will be happy, even if they may have to adapt to slightly chillier winters – but they are pretty resilient; they have survived two mass extinctions, so they will handle the Scottish winters.
Worms & Peace