Kids start a worm farm to learn about decomposition, plant growth, the life cycle of worms, and how they help the earth in this fun, easy science project.
Worm farming is a suitable science project for preschool to grade two students, but can be adapted to suit any elementary grade level. If instructions are followed correctly, kids can produce young worms in 8-12 weeks.
Worm farm kits with observations windows can be purchased through online retailers, but this science project uses common household items. Your worm farm can be grown indoors or out, but should never reach extreme hot or cold temperatures.
Curious about worms? Read more: Everything about earthworms
Why Start a Worm Farm?
- Garden fertilizer. Worms work the earth naturally improving soil by eating, burrowing, mixing, and casting. This produces nutrient-rich soil for healthy plant growth.
- Fishing. Earthworms are effective bait for fresh-water fish.
- Profit. Some successful worm growers produce large crops and turn their hobby into profitable small businesses such as bait shops from home.
- Environmental activism. The population of worms is decreasing due to the chemicals some farmers use to increase plant growth in their crops. Worm farming is one way people can help increase worm population.
What you’ll need
- 2 buckets (lids, optional)
- a hammer
- 1 thin nail
- garden soil
- earthworms or red worms (as many as the kids can dig up!)
- 1 package dry dog food
How to Build the Worm Farm
- Make several small holes in the sides and bottoms of the buckets using the hammer and nail to allow drainage. Lids will protect your worm farm from rats, mice and ants (all of which eat worms). If you will be using lids, make holes in them to provide air circulation.
- Pour a layer of gravel on the bottom of each bucket for drainage purposes. Fill the buckets with rich garden soil blended with a cup of dog food. Water the mixture until moist, but not too wet.
- Dig through your garden or compost until you have roughly 25 worms or more. Add the worms to one of your buckets and watch them disappear into the soil.
Related reading: Science fair projects with plants
- Place the worm bucket on bricks in a shallow container of water. This will protect your worms from ants. In a month or so, you’ll have enough worms to start another crop in the second bucket. Within a few months, you’ll have enough worms to start another crop in the second bucket. Check on your worm farm weekly to see how they’re doing and water them sparingly, as needed.
- Every few weeks, remove approximately 10 cm of soil from the surface of each bucket and blend with half a cup of dry dog food. Empty the rest of the soil out, then add the food mixture to the bottom of your buckets before pouring the soil back in.
Tips and Warnings
- Worm farming can be done indoors or out, but they prefer a cool, dark, moist place. Ideal temperature is 40-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Over-watering is worse for the worms than too little water. Routinely check for mould or muddy soil.
- Worms love kitchen scraps (coffee grounds, vegetables, bread, fruits) and even animal feces. You can use the scraps instead of dog food for a good observation of the compost process.
- Avoid adding chemicals, grease, onions, dairy and meat to your earthworm’s diet.
- Symptoms of a problem may include foul odor, dead worms, or low crop production.
Farming Earthworms is a Fun, Hands-on Science Project for Kids
Through questioning, observation, experiments, recordkeeping, and drawing conclusions, kids will gain a clear understanding of the importance of the earthworm, its life cycle, and how worm farming can help the environment.
Readmore: Fun & easy STEM activities for kids
Fun Facts about Earthworms
A worm can get really long. How well-fed an adult worm is depends on what kind of worm it is, how old it is, how many segments it has, and how well it is fed. The length of a Lumbricus terrestris is between 90 and 300 millimeters.
A worm doesn’t have any eyes, arms, or legs.
About 2,700 different kinds of earthworms live on Earth.
Worms live in places that have food, water, oxygen, and the right temperature. They go somewhere else if they don’t have these things.
There can be more than a million earthworms on an acre of land.
The biggest earthworm ever found was in South Africa. From its head to the end of its tail, it was 22 feet long.
Worms dig deep into the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface, mixing it with the topsoil. Nitrogen is in the slime that earthworms make. Plants need nitrogen to grow and stay healthy. The slime sticks to soil particles and helps hold them together in groups called aggregates.
More than 100 years ago, Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms.
Worms are animals with no body heat.
Earthworms can replace or copy lost parts of their bodies. This ability is very different depending on what kind of worm you have, how much damage you do to it, and where you cut it. It might be easy for a worm to grow a new tail, but if things aren’t just right, it might be hard or even impossible to grow a new head.
Worms don’t have babies. They come out of cocoons that are about the size of a grain of rice.
The Australian Gippsland Earthworm can reach a length of 12 feet and weigh up to 1.5 pounds.
Worms don’t have eyes, but they can feel light, especially in the front of their bodies (front end). They move away from light, and if they’re in it for too long, they’ll stop moving (approximately one hour).
If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.
Worms are both male and female. Each worm has parts that are both male and female. Worms mate by joining their clitella (the swollen area near the head of an adult worm) and exchanging sperm. Then, in its clitellum, each worm makes a case for an egg.
Worms can eat as much as they weigh in one day.