PHOTO GALLERY — Port Arthur students get wormy with hands-on garden education

Published 12:40 am Saturday, April 1, 2023

There are a lot more “Official Worm Wranglers” — and possibly a few smuggled worms in pockets — after the United Way of Mid and South Jefferson County hosted a Worm Wranglin’ Release with first grade students from Washington Elementary School.

“I saw one at my house and I picked it up,” Ariel Jacquet said while holding a worm at the West Port Arthur Community Garden. “I want to keep it.”

And she wasn’t the only one hoping to turn the project into a pet on Friday morning.

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“I want to take one home,” Riyah Roache said while patting soil where she had placed her worms. She said she was putting them to sleep so they didn’t get in the sun, because if they did, “they will die.”

It was one of many facts the students learned from Master Gardener Kevin Pierce with the Jefferson County Agriculture Extension Office.

“When I go buy worms for the gardens, I buy the ones that eat up, and when they finish eating they go back down to the next level,” he told the students before the worm release. “This is basically the way it’s going to be in the garden out here. We’ll put the food at the top. We’ll put the worms on top of it. They’ll eat that food for a while, and then when they become used to being where they are, they’ll find other things to eat and they’ll start working their way just a few inches.

“And when they get hungry, they’ll come back up. But you won’t see them in here unless you go digging around in there.”

The Worm Wranglin’ Release served a dual purpose — to educate and entertain students, but also to help improve the flower beds at the garden on West 8th Street.

“We signed on as partners last year, and we did some work on the irrigation,” said Janie Johnson, CEO and executive director for the United Way of Mid and South Jefferson County. “So fall was our first planting, and this is our first time to do this. But hopefully we’ll have it every year — whether it’s worms or ladybugs, just get the kids out here.”

Since taking over the gardens, Johnson said, they hadn’t seen many worms in the gardens, which spurred the idea for Friday’s event.

“We need worms,” she said. “It was an easy thing, and the beds have to have worms to really do well.”

After adding worms to the flower beds, the students received a book about worms, gummy worms and were given the title of Official Worm Wrangler.