Published by CELA on 20 Aug, 2016

Let’s begin by taking the ‘yuck’ out of worms and gaining an understanding of how important these animals are to a healthy eco-system.

While there are many different species of worms, we can categorise all worms that live in soil, including worm farms and compost bins, as Earthworms.

Earthworms eat soil, organic matter and food scraps and decompose this matter into rich garden fertiliser. Worms create tunnels in our soil to enable water, air and nutrients to circulate keeping our earth healthy.

Worms fascinate children, making them perfect pets. Keeping a worm farm is an easy way to recycle food scraps in a childcare environment. As worm farms are suited to large or small spaces can be kept indoors, and you can keep numerous worm farms to meet your requirements.

A worm farm has many environmental benefits, including recycling food scraps, minimising food waste that goes to landfill and creating natural garden fertiliser.

A worm farm is an excellent early learning resource. Some of the things that children can explore and learn include:

Worm anatomy

  • Worms are invertebrates, and don’t have arms or legs – they use their muscle segments (annuli) and fine hairs (setae) on their body to move along. Using a magnifying glass to take a closer look, you can see the muscle segments along the worm’s body and how they use these to move along.
  • Worms don’t have eyes, ears or a nose – they use vibration to sense danger.
  • Worms don’t have teeth; they have a gizzard just like birds. The gizzard is used to grind up foods. Eating soil and adding some crushed eggshells to your worm farm helps this process.

Life cycles

  • In a worm farm you can observe the complete life cycle of the worm – from capsule (egg), and young worm to adult.
  • What does the worm capsule look like? It looks like a tiny golden grape seed. It feels like you have discovered gold when you find them as it means more worms and a healthy worm farm!

Environmental

  • Recycling food scraps, creating something new from something old. When worms recycle food they change this into highly nutritious soil for our garden.
  • Reducing waste that goes to landfill is important in minimising air pollution (methane gas) and water pollution (leachate).

Life skills

  • Children learn how they can contribute to a healthy planet by recycling food scraps in a worm farm.
  • When children learn this skill from an early age they are more likely to continue this habit into adulthood.
  • Children learn responsibility and empathy when they care for worms – caring for living things fosters a connection and respect for nature.

Natural garden fertiliser

  • Worms make two products for our garden: Vermicast (aka Worm Poo) and Worm Leachate (aka Worm Tea, Worm Wee or Worm Juice).
  • These products are abundant in beneficial microorganisms and enzymes that support the quality and structure of your garden soil.
  • Earthworms in our garden soil distribute these nutrients as they tunnel through the soil.
  • If we have a worm farm we can collect the vermicast and liquid adding this to the top 10cm of our garden soil to regenerate and feed the soil.

Note on how to be careful with worms:

  • Please remember that worms are living things just like us so handle with care.
  • When looking at a worm up close or handling them remember that they are sensitive to light and heat, so minimise their exposure and put them back in the soil as soon as possible.
  • A worm will not grow back if it is cut in half, it will die.
  • If you find a worm on a footpath, carefully help it find its way back to soil – worms love soil.

For more information on keeping a worm farm, please refer to the Learning Diary: Compost, Worms & Vertical Gardens, to be released later this year.

Michelle Carrick

Co-Founder/Program Director, Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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