Make your own wormery
Become a worm expert by observing worms over a week in your own worm home!
Making a wormery is a safe and simple way to observe and find out more about worms and what they are up to underneath the ground. All you need is an empty bottle, some soil and vegetable scraps and you are ready to go.
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Younger children might like to listen to this “Yucky Worms” story by Vivian French. It tells us all about worms and why they are so important in our garden habitats.
Older children might be interested in watching this NUSTEM Encounter with environmental scientist, Miranda Prendergast-Miller. She tells us about the reasons why she became an environmental scientist and why worms are her favourite soil organism.
Remove the top from your bottle to make a lid. Do this by squashing the bottle flat at about ¼ of the way from the top. Cut across your bottle here.
Cut 2 small (4cm) slits upwards at opposite sides of your bottle. This will make sure your lid fits on your wormery.
Scoop up some of your soil with your trowel or a plastic container and put it in the base of your bottle. Add a very small amount of water so that the soil is damp. A water spray is perfect for this.
Worms breathe through their skin so everything in your wormery must be damp. If the soil is too dry, the worms can’t breathe!
Scoop up the same amount of sand, compost or worm food and add this to your bottle. Add a small amount of water so that the layer is damp.
Continue adding alternating scoops of soil, sand, compost or worm food until your bottle is about ¾ full. Remember to add water to each layer to keep the wormery moist for your worms.
Now find your worms! You could look in a compost heap, under stones or logs or you could dig in the earth.
Make sure you handle the worms with great care. Their skin is very delicate, so put them in your wormery as soon as possible so they don’t dry out.
Add some worm food to the top of your wormery, on top of your worms. Slide the top part of your bottle over your base.
Wrap your black card or paper around your wormery and secure it with tape. Worms don’t like light. Put your wormery in a warm place. You can remove the card to observe the worms.
Observe your worms
Check your worms regularly and record where they are in the bottle.
You could investigate:
You could record your observations by drawing or taking photographs of the worms in your wormery each time you check it.
Make a worm fact file
Research worms on the internet or in books. Choose the facts that you find the most interesting and informative. You could include:
Try each of these methods and count how many worms you find with each. Which do you predict will produce the most worms?
Worm hunt: look under rocks and stones, under dead wood or leaves or try digging in the soil.
Stamping: stamp your feet in one place on the grass or soil for 5 to 10 minutes. Worms are supposed to be attracted to the surface by vibrations.
Twanging: put a garden fork into the grass and rock it backwards and forwards until the worms appear. How long did it take them to come to the surface?
Soaking: soak an area of ground with water and cover it with a black plastic bag. Water fills the worm’s burrows and they come to the surface.
You could make a graph to show which was the most successful method.
Here is a useful worm identification guide to help you find out which worms you have:
20 minutes or so to make the wormery, a week to observe the worms.
Age 3 and up.
You know your children better than anyone, and you should judge whether they’re ready for this activity. You might want to think in particular about:
Worms are living creatures and need to be treated with care and respect!
The reason you see worms on the pavement when is it rain is because the rain floods their burrows. If they didn’t come to the surface then they would drown.
Attributes: passionate, creative, committed
Environmental scientists study the effects of human activities on the environment. They are passionate about preventing and solving environmental problems such as pollution. They collect and test soil or air samples to find the type, concentration and source of the pollution caused by industry or agriculture. Environmental scientists are committed to finding out whether contaminant sources will affect or harm habitats, individuals and communities. They are creative in the ways they find to manage, minimise or eliminate any negative impacts of the pollution.
Visit our environmental scientist page to try some more environmental science activities and find out more.
Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller says:
“I am an environmental scientist and I like to find out more about the world around us and how we are changing it. In particular, I study organisms that live in the soil below your feet. Earthworms are my favourite soil organism because there are different kinds and they are very important in making soil. The work I do helps farmers to grow our food in ways that encourages more earthworms and microbes to live in the soil and provide important nutrients to plants and animals. This means that farmers can look after the soil and use less fertiliser and chemicals. I also do experiments in the laboratory to check if plastic rubbish is changing the soil and organisms like earthworms that live underground.”
Watch this questions and answers session with Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller.