ShareThis Page
North Hills

McCandless Scout worms her way to Gold

| Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Elizabeth Mathews, 17, of McCandless, works on her vermicomposting system she created  for the North Hills Community Outreach’s Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden in Bellevue.
Erica Cebzanov | For the Tribune-Review
Elizabeth Mathews, 17, of McCandless, works on her vermicomposting system she created for the North Hills Community Outreach’s Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden in Bellevue.
Elizabeth Mathews, 17, of McCandless, works on her vermicomposting system she created  for the North Hills Community Outreach’s Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden in Bellevue.
Erica Cebzanov | For the Tribune-Review
Elizabeth Mathews, 17, of McCandless, works on her vermicomposting system she created for the North Hills Community Outreach’s Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden in Bellevue.
Girl Scout Elizabeth Mathews, left, poses with the vermicomposting bin she constructed with Alyssa Crawford, NHCO garden and youth coordinator.
Erica Cebzanov | For the Tribune-Review
Girl Scout Elizabeth Mathews, left, poses with the vermicomposting bin she constructed with Alyssa Crawford, NHCO garden and youth coordinator.
Marianne and Elizabeth Mathews place produce in bins for the worms to eat as Alyssa Crawford, NHCO garden and youth coordinator, looks on.
Erica Cebzanov | For the Tribune-Review
Marianne and Elizabeth Mathews place produce in bins for the worms to eat as Alyssa Crawford, NHCO garden and youth coordinator, looks on.

Elizabeth Mathews of McCandless has hundreds of helpers assisting with her Girl Scout Gold Award project. They just happen to be red wiggler worms.

She brought her vermicomposting system that uses worms to convert food waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer Nov. 6 to North Hills Community Outreach's Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden in Bellevue.

Elizabeth, 17, constructed a waist-high plywood cabinet with an interior containing three rows of shelves, with two plastic bins on each level. The worms, shredded newspaper and soil fill the second level's bins, which have holes for the creatures to travel to the upper-level bins.

Those trays have chopped produce for them to eat and process into fertilizer through their waste or castings. Similarly, the bottom trays collect leachate — a fertilizer created from leftover moisture during the compost process.

She said the design is “a combination of two other people's plans online, but it was a unique build to get what we needed.” She used Styrofoam to insulate the structure and a nontoxic water wash to waterproof it.

“I did a lot of research of how big I needed to do it, what can I do to insulate it … to waterproof it and to make sure it was all-natural — that it won't leak into the Styrofoam, which would leak into the worms, which would be bad.”

A junior at North Allegheny, she installed a raised handle and latch to keep predators at bay.

Her father, Richard, helped with components of the construction requiring the use of a power saw.

He jokingly said that through his daughter's project, he has learned more about worm farming than he “ever wants to learn again.”

“It's fascinating. I think we should all try to be good stewards of the earth,” he said.

The 17-year-old was inspired to embark upon the vermicomposting activity after growing vegetable seedlings and transplanting them into the NHCO garden, as part of another Girl Scout project. Alyssa Crawford, NHCO garden and youth coordinator, mentioned that she would like to implement a vermicomposting system and that it might serve as a good Gold Award project.

“I was willing to get dirty playing with worms and building and everything, and I was comfortable doing that, and I didn't explore any other options because I knew I was capable of doing this.”

She had prior experience growing home flower and vegetable gardens with her mother, Marianne.

“The picking part of buying the flowers is my favorite part,” she said.

A member of Girl Scout Troop 55090, she decided to pursue the Gold Award — the highest Girl Scout achievement — because her twin brothers, Peter and Steven, have found their Eagle Scout status beneficial.

Working toward the suggested requirement of completing 80 hours on the project, Elizabeth started her proposal in July and construction in August.

She plans to develop an online presentation and pamphlets for students visiting the garden.

“I learned what it takes to compost new materials with the worms,” she said. “I found it interesting what they actually do. I didn't actually realize worms can travel upwards through the bins.”

Crawford said she greatly appreciates the Scout's efforts.

“We have both the educational component and the worm castings, which are a great fertilizer for our plants.”

Jennifer Kissel, NHCO's communications director, said the garden produces 11,000 plants for the organization's food pantries in Millvale, Allison Park and Bellevue.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me