Understanding what happens beneath the soil is fascinating for kids – just like outer space and the deep sea it’s something that they can’t see easily but unlike either of those they can touch it and they get a glimpse at what is happening as they dig, garden and harvest vegetables from the garden. A great way to see what is going on is to make your own Wormery and look at what the worms do under the soil.
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We’ve been reading Underground by Denise Fleming for this month’s Virtual Book Club for Kids and have decided to make a wormery to explore what worms actually do underground and learn a little more about why they need to do it.
Underground by Denise Fleming is a fantastic book for early readers and preschoolers – J who started to read this year was able to segment and blend all of the words within the book that he didn’t recognise and T who is pre-reading had a great time telling me about the pictures.
Featuring fantastic illustrations of animals and some plant growth under the surface of the soil the kids loved seeing what was going on in a world that isn’t easily seen. If your child is interested in exploring the topic of what happens with plants under the soil then why not grow beans in a jar so that they can see what happens when the seed starts to grow.
A wormery is a traditional way to view what worms do underground – you can make a complex permanent structure or like us create a simple wormery from our Junk Materials box that we can view for a week and then return the worms to the ground to continue carrying out their hard work in our garden.
Materials needed to make a Simple Wormery with kids
1l or bigger Plastic drinks bottle throughly cleaned
Soil, Compost and Sand (you don’t need large quantities of any of these)
Worms from the garden
Scissors and a dark coloured bag
How to make a Plastic Bottle Wormery
First off it’s time to dig for some worms – we’re lucky that it’s the time of year to turn over our vegetable beds to prepare them for planting so as we’re turning over the beds we collected worms for the wormery – a 1 litre plastic bottle like we used will be good for around 5 or 6 worms to inhabit but if you have a bigger bottle then you could collect more worms.
If you aren’t digging over soil then a great way to find worms is to wait till after some rain and then dig up the soil – if you want to do this quicker than the next rain storm then put a hose on some soil for around 10 minutes – wait a couple of hours if it’s not too hot (in the shade is a great place to do this) and then have a dig the worms should have risen to the surface as the soil will be easier for them to move through and have more nutrients for them to get out.
To make our wormery we cut the top off the plastic bottle using the top as a handle funnel to pour in the soil – this I had to do with a bread knife as the bottle was very sturdy.
To see the role of the worms in the soil you need to have a different collection of soils – we used soil dug up from the garden (grey in colour) compost (black) and sand (white) and filled the bottle with layers of the soil.
Once the bottle was filled with layers of soil you need to add the worms – place them on the top and as the soil is lose you will see them slowly disappear into the soil.
We’ve added it to our nature table and placed a black plastic bag loosely over the top so that it’s dark and have watered it mid-week using a spray bottle.
Checking on the wormery throughout the weeks the kids have observed what the worms have done – gradually the obvious layers of soil have combined and all soil is the same mix after a week. At times throughout the week they have seen worm tubes and worm casts on the surface of the soil.
See how we recorded what happened with the worms in our simple Wormery Journal a great way for children to get used to making observations.
After a week we returned the worms to the garden and have repeated the wormery time and time again.
What does the wormery show
Worms are essential for the soil, they are like mini machinery turning over the soil and breaking it up. Forming tunnels as they move they break up big sections of the soil.
Worms also “feed” on soil they ingest it and then absorb the nutrients that they need and excrete it – these form the worm casts that you can see on top of the soil, by doing this they move through the layers of the soil.
If you have soil which has a lot of worms in then it’s common to find the topsoil free of stones as the constant movement of the worms gradually moves the stones down to below the oxygen rich surface soil and makes for great growing soil. With our gardening worm at the moment we are constantly digging and I am encouraging the kids to move the worms that we find to the vegetable patch although a few of the smaller ones make their way into the pond for the frogs and newts that we have there.