Target Grade Level / Age Range:
K-2 nd grade
Students will be introduced to composting and vermicomposting and how it impacts the health of our soil.
- Vermicompost bin
- Red wiggler poster (basic part ID) (Page 2 of Tip Sheet)
- Magnifying glasses
- Water bottle
- Paper towels
- Food scraps
- Live red wiggler worms (for sale in Iowa here: http://urbanwormcompany.com/business/iowa-worm-composting/)
Suggested Companion Resources:
- Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
- There’s a Hair in My Dirt
- Magic School Bus Meets Rot Squad
- Wiggling Worms at Work
- Compost Stew
- Worms are Gross
- Earthworms: Underground Farmers
- Dirt You Made My Lunch song by Banana Slug String Band https://youtu.be/MwgP2gCzSC4
- Tip Sheet: https://earthmatter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/tipsheet-worm-facts.pdf
- Red Wiggler ID Video: https://youtu.be/Yorcjo3zQJ0
- Composting: make vegetable matter or manure into compost
- Compost: a mixture of decayed or decaying organic matter used to fertilize soil
- Vermicomposting: process of composting using worms to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable waste, bedding materials, and vermicast
Interest Approach or Motivator:
Have students examine real red wiggler worms and feed them with food scraps.
Background – Agricultural Connection:
A basic understanding of how a composting “bin” works, vermicomposting is simply adding red wiggler worms to help speed up this process. Having some discussion on nature’s recyclers, decomposition and worm “anatomy” is helpful but not required.
I have used this lesson in classrooms where background knowledge was strong AND where background knowledge was minimal…..and both types of lessons go very well. Students LOVE touching, seeing, watching the worms in real life. Teachers enjoy the opportunity to adopt the bin for a few weeks so students can see the compost cycle happen.
- What is compost (ing)? (break down definition from above—discuss to understanding of nature’s way of recycling)
- What is vermicompost? (nature’s way of recycling….using the red wigglers in a traveling/contained space)
- Using worm poster—introduce worm parts (head, tail, front, back, mouth, gizzard, saddle, segments----discuss how it functions in the soil (eat—poo—soil!), how it breaths (rain), light/heat sensitivity, how it helps the soil breathe ---discuss food options (introduced in steps 1 and 2 also)
- Discuss how vermicompost bin is set up—how it begins—how it works
- Open bin and prep to pass out worms—fragile—looking with magnifying glasses to ID parts discussed above—will keep wet via water bottle squirts by teacher
- Watch and respond as students engage and interact with the red wigglers and each other. (10-20 minutes)
- Return worms to bin—discuss observations—questions
- Feed worms from teacher collect scraps (or collect scraps from a class snack or lunch and discuss what can/ can’t be fed to worms)
- Book and song can be used before and/or after alternatively according to time etc.
- Worm anatomy poster
- Journal the bin changes over a period of time
- Present/share info with buddy classrooms on campus—family members
National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:
- Plants and Aniamls for Food, Fiber and Energy Outcomes (K-2 nd: Identify the importance of natural resources—sun, soil, water, minerals—in farming
- Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber and Energy Outcomes (Grades 3 rd-5 th : Understand the concept of stewardship and identify ways farmers care for soil, water, plants and animals
Iowa Core Standards:
- 2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. [ Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the diversity of living things in each of a variety of different habitats.] [ Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific animal and plant names in specific habitats.]
- 3-LS1-1. Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death. [Clarification Statement: Changes organisms go through during their life form a pattern.] [ Assessment Boundary: Assessment of plant life cycles is limited to those of flowering plants. Assessment does not include details of human reproduction.]
- 3-LS3-2. Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
[Clarification Statement: Examples of the environment affecting a trait could include normally tall plants grown with insufficient water are stunted; and, a pet dog that is given too much food and little exercise may become overweight.]
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