Kindness in Real Life: Worm program turns food waste to fertilizer

The worms have hit pay dirt for LEARN’s Student Support Services. In January, the RecycleCT Foundation announced that SSS won a $1,400 grant for the “WormED” program at the LEARN Transition Academy in East Lyme.

Students in the program are learning vermicomposting, in which worms consume organic waste and produce highly effective fertilizer.

SSS is LEARN’s special education division and provides a wide range of services to students with special needs. While most programs are centralized at the Ocean Avenue LEARNing Academy in New London, the LEARN Transition Academy is located on Boston Post Road in East Lyme.

The LEARN Transition Academy supports adult-aged students by helping them gain the skills they require to be successful and independent. It also serves students in the age range of grades 10-12 who may require a more community-based high school option as they prepare for the transition from school to adult services.

Teacher Tim Doyle and staff member Paul Magoulas lead WormED, a component of the learning experience at the Transition Academy. The program collects waste from school systems, bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores, and other donated sources. The waste is all organic and suited to the diet of red wiggler earthworms, which the program has in large supply.

One pound of worms eat half a pound of waste per day, converting garbage into fertilizer. Since beginning the WormED program, more than 10,000 pounds of food waste have been eliminated from local landfills, and students collected more than 2,000 pounds of compost.

RecycleCT noted in its congratulatory letter to LEARN that “receiving an award this year is an indicator that your programs and proposal were very strong.”

Matt Engelhardt is marketing, communication and advocacy coordinator at LEARN, a regional education service center based in Old Lyme. He can be reached at (860) 434-4800, ext. 170.

Kindness in Real Life is a regular feature in The Times. To contribute, email


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