Introducing vermiculture is one of the most amazing techniques that integrates hands-on science learning in a fun, relatively easy and consistent manner in the classroom. Kids of all ages appreciate animals of all shapes and sizes, they talk of elephants, tigers, mice, zebras and their pets at home. Often times they lament of the creatures in the soil as well though they do not even begin to comprehend the job that these creatures have to do! Decomposers are an amazing contribution to our universe, yet they so often go unrecognized for their amazing talent, the gift of decomposition!
When introducing vermicompost to your classroom, it is a perfect time to begin conversation on the parts of an ecosystem and the vocabulary attached. Abiotic, biotic and cultural; producers, decomposers and consumers and fungus, bacteria and invertebrates are all excellent content to study while adding to your classroom vermicompost!
Coming soon will be videos that will be geared directly toward students to get them pumped about vermiculture in their classroom. For now I am posting a simple how-to video that I scavenged from youtube. It is not something for your students to watch but it is very informational for you as the teacher.
To start, you need 2 non-transparent, Rubbermaid containers from your local Target. The large ones should work great for a classroom of 25 students. You will need to drill 15-20 holes around the bottom of ONE of the containers for draining purposes and 10-15 holes in one of the lids for oxygen purposes. Place the tub with holes inside of the tub without holes and place the lid on top. (Occasionally you will have to lift the top tub out of the bottom tub and train the “tea”. The “tea”, in addition to the compost, does wonders for soil when gardening!)
Next you will need newspaper and/or cardboard. Rip, cut or shred it into little pieces and soak it in water for 24 hours. After it has soaked, ring it out and scatter it across the bottom of the tub with holes. That will serve as part of the worms bedding. The worms also love Ecoearth, which can be purchased at any Petco for about 7.00. It is really worth the purchase because it will make your worms truly happy when they are first placed in their new home. A few leaves will also make the worms extraordinarily happy.
Lastly, you will need a half pound to a pound of red worms. (Make sure they are red worms, earthworms do not work for this project.) You can order them online though that tends to be more expensive. If you visit your local fishing store you can pick up worms for relatively cheap.
As you are collecting all of these materials have the kids make a list and attempt to get the community involved. Maybe the fishing store would donate half of your worms and Target would be willing to donate the tubs. Parents will be much more likely to shop somewhere knowing that the institution made a donation to their school!
A really fun lesson on compassion and math is to count your worms before you put them into the tub. Make sure to have a HUGE talk on how gentle these creatures are and that handling should be the students first concern. The Diary of a Worm is such a fun book to read prior to beginning this activity!
As you continue to add decaying fruits and vegetables, pay attention to the worms. Are they happy in their soil? Are they trying to escape? What kind of food do they seem to like? Have the students keep notes in their nature journals about the food that the worms are gravitating toward. How long is it taking them to reproduce. You can also set up a station for your students to conduct a “research” project about the life of a red worms.
Once the worms have begun to create soil, you can harvest the soil and the class can plant their own flowers to begin the study of botany! (Video on harvesting also coming soon!)