The students had begun digging through the dirt in Easton's Centennial Park Wednesday when they discovered they weren't alone.
"Ewwwwww! Worms!" came the chorus.
Ali Miller, a volunteer working with the students, told them the worms were a good sign. Worms mean healthy soil.
And with luck, that soil will next year yield a healthy garden producing healthy vegetables for these and other West Ward children.
At least that's what the Kellyn Foundation -- working with Easton's Weed & Seed program and the Easton Area Community Center -- is hoping.
On Wednesday, with the help of a handful of Easton Area Middle School students, they began preparing Centennial Park for a set of small vegetable gardens to be planted beginning in March 2013.
When completed, the beds of soil in and around the park will grow sugar peas, cherry tomatoes, a variety of peppers and lettuce, and other easy-to-pick, easy-to-eat vegetables, said the Kellyn Foundation's Eric Ruth. The park is home to Easton's Summer Nights program each year, and is a place where a lot of West Ward kids get daily meals during the summer.
"I don't really expect this stuff to make it home," Ruth said. "I'm hoping the kids use it as a snack while they're here."
Worm anxiety aside, these were kids who knew their way around gardens. Some, like Giovani Cagle, have helped parents or grandparents. Others, like Makiyah Irvin, grow their own plants.
"I just water them a lot, and keep them in healthy soil," she said of her tomato plants.
The garden was begun as part of local observances for National Food Day. Now in its second year, it tries to promote ideas like sustainable, organic farming, healthier diets and reduced hunger.
The day's program also included talks -- and a meal -- at the community center. There are other activities scheduled throughout the Lehigh Valley.
Last year, Easton students heard about these things in the classroom, said Dr. Meagan Grega, the co-founder and chief medical officer of the Kellyn Foundation. This year, their classroom was right in their back yards.
With luck, Grega said, the project will open the students' palates as well as their minds.
"If they grow it," she said, "they're much more excited to want to try it."