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Monday, February 26, 2024

How I Spent My Summer Internship: With 1,500 Worms



A heap of brown dirt full of skinny, red worms.

Photograph by SuSanA Secretariat, Flickr Inventive Commons



I’m betting not many individuals have the distinction of getting launched on the primary day of their summer season internship as “Worm Lady.” And, of their lifetimes, most is not going to have the chance to maintain a bag of roughly 1,500 worms.

How did I get right here?

At our first Earth Optimism × Folklife intern crew assembly, there was the basic introduction circle, and I used to be launched because the knowledgeable on worms. A number of days earlier than, I had spoken with our supervisor, program curator Betty Belanus, about populating a vermiculture compost space on the Smithsonian Folklife Competition, exhibiting guests how they might make their very own backyards or shared areas extra eco-friendly. Apparently, I confirmed extra enthusiasm for composting and worms than I spotted, and now I was the intern in command of the worm challenge.

Only one downside: I knew little or no about worms.

However, not desirous to disappoint our fearless chief, I began researching worms with a vengeance. I used to be decided to embrace the position of Worm Lady, discovering worm information, fanatics, and specialists on-line. I grew fascinated. Do you know that worms have style buds on their pores and skin and have favourite meals? That they lack eyes however can sense daylight? I began to discover them endearing, even cute. I discovered every little thing I might concerning the correct option to arrange a vermicomposting system till I felt ready for my duties as the “worm overseer” on the Competition.

The day the worms arrived on the Competition grounds was the happiest and most excited I had been all summer season. For a number of days, they had endured a dangerous journey round city in an Amazon Prime truck, blocked from the Nationwide Mall by the One thing within the Water music competition the weekend earlier than our personal. (And, sure, you may order dwell worms on-line!) However they have been lastly right here, and alive and effectively—with one other slight snag. Their dwelling, the Worm Theater, had not but been accomplished. My little guys must dwell in a giant ceramic bowl for the following a number of days, beneath my fixed scrutiny and worries about what doable risks might befall them in a single day.

Lastly, on the third day of the Competition, the Worm Theater arrived. After a couple of tense moments of prepping the house with a mesh backside, cardboard lining, soil, a couple of compost scraps, and a few moisture, I rigorously deposited 1,500 “purple wiggler” worms so they may burrow and eat to their hearts’ content material. (Crimson wigglers have 5 hearts, by the best way.)


A young woman pours a bucket of soil into a raised wooden box with plexiglass on one side, making the interior visible.
Rosie Cohen units up the Worm Theater for its new occupants.


Photograph by Betty Belanus



A young woman pours a bucket of soil into a raised wooden box with plexiglass on one side, making the interior visible.
Rosie shares worm information with younger Competition guests.


Photograph by Betty Belanus


I used to be shocked by how guests have been in these worms and the way rapidly the worms ate the bits of fruit, greens, and different natural matter given to them. All through the Competition, my squirmy costs thrived, and afterward the wholesome worms have been let out in a backyard to proceed their vital work. I’ll by no means take the little worm, or what it has to supply our earth, with no consideration once more.

What did I be taught from this shut encounter with the purple wigglers? Aside from all of the information about worms, I discovered that you just by no means know what enjoyable abilities you’ll develop whenever you start a brand new job and that you just ought to maintain your self open to all of them. This chance on the Heart for Folklife and Cultural Heritage was superb, however, as our supervisor was keen on reminding us, “different duties as assigned” is the watchword of any place at the Smithsonian. I confirmed up as an American historical past main with a dream of working in museums and found a brand new ardour.

When you find yourself keen about one thing, no matter how squirmy or gross it may be, your pleasure will spill over to others. In case your eyes gentle up and a smile involves your face, even strangers (on this case, Competition guests of all ages, however particularly youngsters) will need to hear. I used to be so excited to speak concerning the worms, and others turned excited to hear about them. Generally all it takes is the suitable place and time, and also you can begin one thing new for another person by sharing your ardour. A number of youngsters expressed being extra enthusiastic about science after listening to about worms, and a number of other confirmed curiosity in organising their very own vermicompost facilities. However I can be joyful if they only acknowledged a worm and its usefulness of their yard the following time they noticed one.

At each internship, I attempt to discover my “worms.” At my final internship, I discovered an obscure musical instrument (concertina), and it opened a complete new world for me to discover. After I stepped out of my fast sphere of information, I discovered one thing that introduced further pleasure to this challenge, and I left the internship expertise much more well-rounded than after I entered.

At each new alternative, you may be taught what was anticipated, however you may also deep dive into a subject that can add marvel to your life. Discover your worms.


Several young kids and a few adults gather around a garden planter.


Photograph by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives


Rosie Cohen is an intern with the Earth Optimism × Folklife program and a scholar at Clark College, the place she majors in American historical past, with a focus in regulation and society and a minor in theater arts. She plans to pursue a profession in museum schooling.



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