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Worms are Farmers, Too!

Posted by BETH WEGNER | May 09, 2012 :

One of my new green habits is a great learning opportunity for kids that pays dividends in the garden. I'm the proud mother of 2,000 red wigglers and who knows how many babies! Soil is one of the most important aspects of traditional gardening, and our little red wigglers are master composters. In nature, red wigglers live in the leaf litter layer in the forest floor, and they eat all kinds of decaying plant and animal matter and break it down to create new humus which is a soil component rich with nutrients.

Vermicomposting (worm composting) is fun, hand's-on recycling activity that can become a part of daily life in the classroom and home. Worms will eat your newspaper/paper scraps, leftover fruits and vegetable scraps from lunches or cooking activities and create the best compost and worm tea to fertilize your garden.  The secret ingredient is worm poop!  Worms eat constantly and poop just as constantly and their rich manure is the gold standard in gardening.

Benefits of having a worm farm include:

Providing an opportunity for students to care for living creatures 

Providing an opportunity to experience scientific processes such as decomposition 

Incorporating green habits into daily classroom experiences

Creating a full circle experience for gardening:

  • Feeding plant debris, food scraps, paper, etc. to worms 
  • Worms eat and break down the material to form compost through defacation
  • Compost is separated and added to garden soil at planting time
  • High quality enriches the garden
  • Worm tea is used to fertilize plants
  • Healthy plants yield abundant harvest
  • Harvest is cooked and consumed by students
  • Food scraps are fed to worms and the cycle begins again

There are many opportunities for language arts activities through quality literature and creative writing.  Check out Doreen Cronin's awesome book, Diary of a Worm, and groove to Hap Palmer's Walter the Waltzing Worm!

Another idea is creating a traveling worm farm on a cart.  Classrooms could take turns caring for the worm farm. Worms are ideal classroom pets. They don't make noise. Their farm is surprisingly odor free. They require a minimum of care--basically a cup or so of scraps or paper per day. They can go over the weekend with no problem. Note:  red wigglers cannot survive in extreme temperatures. They prefer similar temperatures as people (40-80 degrees). Don't feed worms dog, cat or human feces which could contain pathogens. Don't feed worms dairy products or meat--these will rot and make your classroom smell!

Become a worm wrangler, you (and your garden) will be glad you did!


Happy Gardening,


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Soils Lesson Plans–Living in a Land Down Under