Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Handout 1, Caring for Your Earthworm Wonderland
- For each participant: A large, wide-mouth, glass jar with a metal lid; an aluminum can (with one end removed) that will fit inside the closed jar and is about half the jar's size; soft, damp soil; a spoon; and 8-10 worms
- Black construction paper; color chalk; and tape
- Scissors, hammer, and nails (for adult use)
Preparation for Activity
- Obtain supplies. Worms can be purchased from a variety of local sources.
- Make a sample wonderland.
- Recruit additional adult helpers for this session.
- Copy Handout 1, Caring for Your Earthworm Wonderland, for all participants.
Description of Activity
Tell the children they will each make an "earthworm wonderland." Say in these words or your own:
Worms are decomposers. They help turn garbage into soil and keep the soil loose and aerated, by burrowing through it. They make soil by eating compost, things like vegetable trimmings and grass clippings, and leaving behind their own waste called castings (aka worm poo). Worm poo is soft and fine and perfect for gardening.
Instruct the children to put the aluminum can, open end down, inside the jar. Next, spoon moist soil around the can, so the can stays in the center and the soil fills the area around it (the can keeps the worms on the outside of the jar so you can view them).
When the jar is full, add the worms. Help any children who are uncomfortable handling the worms. The worms will burrow into the soil within a few minutes. Have an adult punch several holes in the jar lid with a hammer and nails, so the worms can get air. Label each lid with the child's name.
Have an adult cut the black construction paper to fit around the jar. Tell the children to decorate one side with interesting designs using color chalks. Tape the ends together to make a ring that fits around the jar. Leave the black paper shade covering the jar for a few minutes. Ask the children what they think is happening in the jar while it is covered (the worms will burrow next to the glass, so you will be able to see them better).
After a few minutes, tell the children to slide the paper shade up and spend some time watching the worms. Point out how quickly they burrow away from the light when you are watching them. Slide the shade back down over the glass when you are finished. Distribute Handout 1, Caring for Your Earthworm Wonderland. Tell the children they may take home their jar, shade, and handout.
Including All Participants
Some children will be eager to handle the worms, while others may be afraid. Allow each to choose their level of contact. Remind children to handle the worms gently, and with respect.