Students will learn how to compost with worms, what to feed them and how compost can be used.
- learn about worms,
- learn how red worms help turn food scraps into compost, and
- learn simple ways they can divert the amount of trash sent to landfills.
Boys and girls, today we are going to learn about worms. I am going to tell you all about how worms move, where they live and what they eat. A very special species of worm called red worms are used to eat some of the food that we do not finish. Listen carefully; the adventure is going to begin.
- Raise your hand if you have ever seen a worm. (Show picture of worm [JPG].)
- How many legs does a worm have? How many arms does a worm have? Worms do not have any legs or arms. They use their strong muscles to help them move forwards and backwards.
- Where do worms live? Do they live up high in the trees or down low in the ground? Worms live underground.
- Today we are going to be talking about a very special type of worm called a red worm. Red worms are decomposers (have students repeat decomposer.) Red worms decompose (eat) rotting food.
- Red worms like to eat a lot of the same foods we enjoy eating. Raise your hand if you like grapes. Raise your hand if you like strawberries. Raise your hand if you like apples. Raise your hand if you like bananas. Raise your hand if you like carrots. (You can do this with a variety of fruit and vegetables.)
- They can eat a variety of fruit and vegetable scraps. They can eat citrus but not large quantities.
- They can eat bread that does not have anything smeared on it like peanut butter, mayonnaise, butter, etc.
- Red worms will even eat some things we don’t eat but that we have around the house. They will eat newspaper, cardboard, and even a banana peel.
- Does a worm have any teeth? No, worms do not have any teeth to help them chew their food. Worms can only eat the food when it’s rotting, sometimes it has mold on it and that’s just the way they like their food. They eat their food the same way you eat ice cream. They too use their lips to take small bites.
- Worms are unable to eat dairy (ice cream, cheese, and yogurt), meat, or bones.
- Instead of throwing food scraps away, you can use red worms to eat the food scraps. Red worms will turn the food scraps into compost. Composting with worms is when you take newspaper, vegetable and fruit scraps and the worms turn it into soil. (Show picture of compost [JPG].)
- To compost with red worms you can use a small Rubbermaid container. (Show picture of compost [JPG]) If you add newspaper, food and red worms to the bin, you have the ingredients you need to make soil.
- After the worms turn the food into soil, you can add it to your garden or potted plants.
- If you throw food scraps in the trash, where does the trash truck take it? Tell them our trash goes to a large open space called a landfill. (Show them picture of a landfill [JPG].) When the landfill becomes full with trash, it is then closed and we will have to find a new place for all of our trash to go.
- When we compost our food scraps with worms it helps our earth in two ways:
- Food scraps will turn into useful soil that we can add to gardens or potted plants.
- Our landfills don’t fill up too quickly, so it saves landfill space.
Note for Teachers:
The Recycle Your Food Waste With Worms Guide will give you step by step instructions on how to set up and care for a worm bin.
Program Activity Examples
Holding a Worm: Tell the students that if they would like to hold a worm they can but they don’t have to if they don’t want to. There are a few steps they need to follow if they would like to hold a worm:
- If they would like to hold a worm, they need to sit on their pockets.
- Put their hands together to form a cup.
- If they do not wish to hold a worm, it’s OK, they can tell you no thank you when you are offering them a worm.
- You will come around and place one worm in each student’s hand. If they do not wish to hold a worm you can let them touch the worm gently with one finger or let them look at it in your hand.
- When everyone has had a chance to touch/hold a worm, we will wash our hands.
- Let just five students at a time hold a worm. It’s easier to keep track of the worms and keeps students from passing them around.
- Students may have a yellow substance on their hands after holding a red worm. It is nothing gross – the liquid is an adaptation the worm has to help it survive in the wild, similar to when skunks spray. Red worms are often referred to as the ‘skunk worm’ because of their adaptation.
Questions you can ask the student:
- How does the worm feel?
- Does the worm feel smooth or bumpy?
- What color is the worm?
- Does the worm feel slimy or furry?
Worms Hatch From Eggs: For this activity, you will need a worm egg (show photo of worm egg [JPG]).
Red worms on average will have three worms hatch from each egg. Eggs start out as yellow and turn a dark red as the hatchlings mature in the egg. If you create your own worm bin, you can find the small worm eggs throughout the bin. The students can hold the egg in their hands or you can place an egg in a small magnifying box to show the students.
Worms Move the Earth: For this activity, you will need two clear jars with lids, red worms, two different color soils (light and dark), construction paper, food for worms and tape.
- Construct layers in each jar, using a layer of dark, light, dark, light, 2nd dark soil.
- Label jars – A: no worms, B: worms.
- Add a few holes to the top of jar B.
- Wrap jar with construction paper that you can easily remove for observation. Worms are sensitive to light.
- Add worms (10 will do) to jar B.
- Add a few small pieces of food for the worms on top of the soil or you can bury the food in the top layer of soil. You can add a piece of apple, grapes cut in half, banana, etc.
- The worms will tunnel around the jar and will mix the light and dark soil.
- When you are done with the experiment, return worms to the bin.
Questions you can ask the student:
- What differences do you see between jar A and B?
- Is the soil mixed in the jar with worms? Without worms?
- Are there any tunnels in the dirt made by the worms?