This activity, making a mini-worm habitat, will allow the students to understand the process of converting organic waste into usable fertilizer. Students will observe how living and nonliving things interact with one another.
- Into the Forest, (food chain card game) - 2-6 players, age 7 and up. Ampersand Press
- Onto the desert, (game of survival) - 2-6 players, age 7 and up. Ampersand Press 1-800-624-
- Predator, - 2-6 players, age 7 and up. Ampersand Press 1-800-624-4263
- How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell ISBN 0440445450
- Interesting Invertebrates, by Elaine Landau ISBN 0-531-20036-1
Worms, by Jill Bailey ISBN 157572665-3
- I Wonder What It's Like to Be an Earthworm, by Erin M. Hovanec ISBN 0-8239-5454-4
- Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss ISBN 006000150X
- The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown ISBN 0-06-443227-0
- Worms Eat Our Garbage: Classroom Activities for a Better Environment by Mary Applehof,
Mary F. Fenton, & Barbara L. Harris ISBN 0-942256-05-0
- The Worm Café: Mid-scale Vermicomposting of Lunchroom Wastes by Binet Payne ISBN
- How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell; New Line Cinema: Distributors; Item #42231
Background for Teachers
There are around 4,400 species of worms on Earth and 2,700
different kinds of earthworms. Earthworms are incredibly useful to our
environment. Without the aid of earthworms, every living thing that
dies would just keep piling up and we would be trying to push through
it. Talk about a recycling problem! Earthworms eat soil and the organic
material in it, such as insect parts and bacteria (e-coli). They aerate the
soil, mix the top rotting materials with the ground below, and enrich
the soil with their worm castings or worm "poop". They can be so tiny
that you can barely see them. Their size ranges from less than an inch
to over 22 inches long and some can live as long as 15 years!
Earthworms (often called night crawlers or fish worms) are
invertebrates (without a backbone). They have no ears, eyes, teeth,
or legs, but have a small brain and five hearts. Earthworms can grow
new body parts if they get hurt. Many earthworms can regenerate
almost half of their body's length. Earthworms like other living things
cannot live without food, water, shelter, and space. Earthworms rely
on sensory devices near their mouths and sensory receptors in their
skin to detect light and feel vibration. Earthworms have two layers of
muscles in each segment the outer one is circular and the inner one is
longitudinal. They have four pairs of setae "see-tee" or hairy bristles
like legs on each of their segments except the first and last.
Earthworms are hermaphrodites ("her-Ma-fre-daits"), which means
they have both male and female reproductive organs. When two
earthworms huddle together with their heads pointing in different
directions, they fertilize each other's eggs. The clitellum (saddle)
secretes a cocoon to protect their fertilized eggs. Later on, they lay the
egg case in the soil and leave it unattended. The hatching time can
vary anywhere from one to five months--depending on environmental
conditions--but on an average, earthworm eggs hatch within six to
eight weeks. Earthworms can eat the equivalent of their own body
Observations indicate that earthworms enjoy eating oatmeal, old
bread, vegetable scraps, leftovers, shredded newspaper, grass, mulched
leaves, ripe fruits, etc. Things they try to avoid include acidic and
spicy foods, salt, and vinegar products.
This activity, making a mini-worm habitat, will allow the students
to understand the process of converting organic waste into usable
fertilizer. Students will observe how living and nonliving things
interact with one another.
Intended Learning Outcomes
1. Use science process and thinking skills
2. Manifest science interests and attitudes
6. Understand the nature of science
5. Connect mathematical ideas within mathematics, to other disciplines, and to everyday experiences.
6. Represent mathematical ideas in a variety of ways
Invitation to Learn
- Read Diary of a Worm to the students.
- Ask the students to write in their journals- KWL (What they
know about worms, want to know about worms and later
write what they have learned.)
- Ask students to raise their hands to share what they know
about worms. The instructor may want to jot them on the
board so they don't repeat something said previously, even
writing down incorrect facts.
- Review what living and nonliving things are and have the
students give examples.
- Discuss how worms interact with living and nonliving things.
- Ask the students how earthworms affect our living
conditions, or what they think earthworms do. Ask them if
they feel earthworms help or hurt our environment.
Please keep in mind that when making your mini-worm habitat,
you should keep it for three to four weeks to give the class enough
time to observe the changes that go on. Students will enjoy this
opportunity to assist you in measuring with this hands-on activity.
You may want to make two identical habitats a control group.
- Begin by covering the bottom of container with gravel in a
nice even layer (about 1 cup).
- Cover gravel with 4 cups of soil (do not pack down soil).
- Add 2 cups of course sand and again lightly smooth it out.
- Add 3 more cups of soil on top of the course sand (again
making a nice layer look). Then spray a mist of water to
moisten the soil.
- Measure and cut a piece of 12" x 22" newspaper. Now, tear
the newspaper in strips, then saturate with water, and wring
out so that the newspaper is moist (not dripping.)
- Next, break more pieces of the wet newspaper and separate
by placing the pieces around the inside of container
- Add 1/2 more cup of soil (give it a little moisture).
- Optional - You may want to have students measure the worms
for fun and use Worm Rulers. You also may want to weigh the
worms and divide that in half to determine how much organic
food your worms will enjoy feasting on.
- Now, place a little organic matter (e.g., about two 1/4" slices of
ripened banana or other ripened fruit will do) in the worm mini
habitat. Place the food on the side of the container, pushing in
the soil just enough to cover the top of the food with soil. *
Don't worry too much about accuracy right now, because the
worms have newspaper to eat and that weighs approximately
what they do.
- Add your worms and watch them go. (Observe how they avoid
- After observing the worms, ask students to draw their new
worm habitat with the different layers. Have students draw the
worms and organic matter too! Then have them write in their
journals or use The KWL About Earthworms worksheet.
- Wrap cheesecloth around the top of the container. Place a
rubber band around to hold it in place.
- Have students measure the width and length of the container
with a measuring tape. Students will then measure and cut
black paper to fit, making sure that they have a little extra
to overlap and tape together. Optional - Use Worm Rulers, to
measure width and length.
- Then, place the worm habitat in a dark place and observe daily
(preferably at the same time). Have students note any changes
and inferences in their journals.
- Have students keep a journal to write any additional knowledge
they have gleaned from magazines, books, websites, etc.
- Have students measure several of the earthworms using inches,
centimeters, and fraction rulers, Worm Rulers.
- Have students use Inchworm Cut Outs to make mathematical
Arrays. (e.g.. 2 x 5, 2 boxes down and 5 across or 5 x 2, 5 boxes
down and 2 across.) Students can do all kinds of math problems
using these inchworms.
- Have students observe and measure the temperature of the
room next to the worm habitat (preferably at the time as they
take off the black paper every day), and check the temperature
of the worm habitat by simply placing a thermometer (slowly
and carefully) in the middle of the container. Then the students
can record these two temperatures daily using the Comparing
Temperatures worksheet and note any changes in their journal.
- Have students make two identical worm habitats and use one
habitat as a control group. (The students will place worms in
one container and none the other.) When you do a control
group, you just place the same amount of food in both
containers and observe what happens.
- Students can research more about worms or how to make a
worm bin (see website on next page).
- Students can check out other animals that interest them and
write or give and oral report.
- Read, How To Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell with your
- Have your family see the movie, How To Eat Fried Worms.
- Have your family build a worm bin and recycle their leftovers.
- Check each student's journal or KWL About Earthworms to see
what they have learned.
- Check earthworm activity worksheets for understanding.
- Look for student's self-reflection upon their predictions and
- Have each student write a revision of what they observed in
their journal, checking for science vocabulary terms, etc.
- Check students understanding of measurement with The
Inchworm Cutouts worksheet,
- Comparing Temperature and Worm Rulers.
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R., (Eds.) (1999). How People Learn; mind,
experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
The authors explored the methodologies and barriers in motivating
young learners to enjoy and participate in classroom science research
and learning. They concluded that a standard-based curriculum
provides information on what students should learn concluding that
teachers make the curriculum accessible to students through their
choice of instructional materials, lessons, homework, and types of
Loucks, S.H., Hewson, P.W., Love, N., & Stiles, K. (Eds.) (1998). Designing Professional
Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA; Corwin
In this study the authors identified three components of effective
professional development that nurture continuous improvement;
context, process, and content. Professional development requires
careful planning with the needs of teachers being an integral part of the