This summer we’ve kept up our learning adventures with a few simple backyard nature studies. This nature study is easy to set up and lets your scientists get hands-on with a simple worm observation.
We started our worm observation by building our very own, very simple wormery. You can do this with any clear, plastic container. We chose to use some clear plastic cups we had left from a birthday party; I’ve also seen people cut 2 liter plastic soda pop bottles. The choice is yours.
The first step to creating your wormery is to fill your container with a mixture of soils. We lifted a few rocks we usually find worms under and used some of the dirt there, layering it with a bit of sand. I decided to let my kids do it completely themselves as part of the learning process, so you can’t really see the layers as nicely in the picture. But the worms did’t really seem to mind.
To encourage the worms to build their tunnels towards the edge of the cup, where we could better see them, we put a piece of cardboard tube in the center of the cup, shoveling the dirt between the cardboard tube and the cup.
Then we put some damp leaves and grass on top and stuck our clear plastic cup inside a slightly larger solid-colored cup. If you are using a pop bottle or something else to make your wormery, you can use black construction paper to cover the outside of the container. The idea is to make it nice and dark and cozy to encourage your worms to dig those tunnels!
Finally, you need a few wiggly inhabitants.
Finding worms is usually easiest after a good rain. Try looking under a few large rocks, in the flower bed, or even in the driveway if the rain has been pretty recent. Hunting for worms is part of the fun!
Once you have several (the more you have, the better chance to see those tunnels), place them in the wormery between the cardboard tube and clear plastic cup. Sprinkle the top of the soil with a bit of water, make sure you have the sides of the clear cup covered, and set it somewhere cool for a day or two.
It can be hard waiting when you’re little. A few good books on earthworms is perfect to fill the time while you wait. A few of our favorite books about earthworms that are good for preschool-aged and older are: Garden Wigglers: Earthworms in Your Backyard, An Earthworm’s Life , and Wiggling Worms at Work.
After a couple days, it’s time to uncover the clear container and check out those tunnels!
We talked about what the worms had done.
I asked them to think about how worms help plants grow. Kids love showing off what they know! They couldn’t wait to remind me that we learned earthworms can help soften the soil. And those tunnels? They help air and water get to the plant roots easier.
Of course, you can’t have a worm observation without handling at least one worm! This is definitely a favorite part for my kids.
We dumped our wormery out into a plastic container to check out the worms.
Did you know, if you hold an earthworm up in the sunlight you can see through them and check out what they’ve been eating? (Our little worm wasn’t thrilled about getting his picture taken this way so he was a bit wiggly and turned out blurry, but I love how you can see that dark trail running through his intestine.) The kids had a great time checking out the worms this way, and we were able to talk about some basic anatomy of the worms as well.
Worm observation is a super simple nature study that is perfect for spring or summer.
Nature Study Series: