Role of Teacher
Equipment: Non-transparent storage container/bin, any size / Newspaper/paper / Spray bottle with water / Poster board and markers / Worms (dug from the compost bin or ground, or ordered online)
- Worms are a type of decomposer. Decomposers eat organic matter, pass it through their bodies and turn it into compost. This compost can then be used as an excellent natural fertilizer for the garden because it is full of nutrients that help plants grow big and strong. Using worms to compost leftover fruit and vegetable peels is a great way of not only reducing food waste, but also creating new, nutritious soil for the garden.
- When worms compost our leftover food scraps and break them down in their bodies, they poop out something very valuable to the garden: worm castings. Like compost, worm castings are incredibly nutritious for the soil and contain many vitamins and minerals that plants need to grow big, strong and productive. Worms are an important part of nature because they are constantly renewing the soil they pass through.
- An ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms that are all connected within their physical environment.
Topics / Goals / Learning Objectives
- To understand the role of decomposers in nature and the garden’s ecosystem.
- To understand how worms help us reduce, recycle, and reuse our food waste in the form of compost.
Opening / Hook
Welcome to class! Because it’s too cold outside to go into the garden we will be having class inside today. But just because we can’t be out in the garden doesn’t mean that we can’t plan for all of the fun things we’re going to be doing outside when the weather gets warmer. Today we are going to be learning about worms and how they help our gardens.
Worms are an important part of our garden’s ecosystem. An ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms. Our garden’s ecosystem has many interacting organisms. Can you name a few that come to mind? (Allow time for brainstorming.) Butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and all of the plants we grow are all members of our garden’s ecosystem, and so are worms! Has anyone seen worms in the garden before? Does anyone know how worms help the garden? (Allow time for brainstorming.)
That’s right! Worms are a type of decomposer and live in our compost pile and our garden beds and eat our leftover fruit and vegetable scraps, dried leaves, and any other type of organic matter (even dirt!) and transform that organic matter into compost. They are called decomposers because that’s what they do: decompose all of that organic matter into compost. What do we know about compost? (Allow time for brainstorming.) Yes, compost is the result of decomposed organic matter, looks like soil and is incredibly nutritious for our garden beds.
How do you think worms can help us with the three R’s: reducing, reusing and recycling? (Allow time for brainstorming.) Instead of throwing away our leftoever food scraps and homework paper, we can now reuse them by feeding them to the worms, reduce the amount of our trash that would otherwise go to a land fill, and recycle those scraps as new soil, or compost, for our garden beds.
We already have a compost pile outside, but we can compost inside in our own classrooms, as well! Today we are going to make a worm bin that will live in our class. Each day after snack, you can feed your worms your leftover apple cores or orange peels. Likewise, when you have leftover scrap paper you can feed that to your worms too! They will be like our own living recycling bin. But before we make our worm bin, let’s go over a few things that we can and cannot feed our worms. What do you think worms can and cannot eat? (Allow time for brainstorming.) That’s right! Worms can eat fruit and vegetable scraps, paper, cardboard, eggshells, grass clippings, dried leaves or flowers. But they cannot eat any dairy products like cheese or milk, or any meat. And remember that worms like the darkness, so only take the lid off to feed them.
Now let’s begin to make our bin!
Procedures / Activities
Prep: Gather materials.
- Welcome the students and introduce the lesson with the Opening above.
- Divide the class into groups. One group will rip the newspaper into 1-2 inch strips for the bedding. One group will make a sign on a poster board of what the class can and cannot feed the worms (refer to the discussion above), and one group can make decorations for the worm bin (i.e. fun facts about worms and composting and the three R’s, names for the worms, pictures of worms, etc.).
- Once all of the groups are finished and the paper scraps and worms have been placed in the bin and the bin is decorated, take the spray bottle and lightly spray the newspaper, explaining that the worms need a little bit of moisture, just like humans need water to live. If the bin ever gets dry, they can lightly spray again until it’s moist.
- Remind the students once more what the worms can and cannot eat, and tell them that after their next snack they will be able compost their leftover fruit or vegetable peels into the worm bin. In about two months the compost will be ready and we will be able to add it to our garden beds in the spring before we start planting!
- If there is time left in the class, have a discussion about what they think the bin will look like in two months. What will happen to the newspaper and fruit and vegetable scraps? What will it smell like? What will it feel like?
Credit for Adaptation
Worm Education Packet, SF Environment. www.sfenvironmentkids.org