Friday, August 21, 2009

Making a Worm House

This was a very popular activity with my daughter and her friends. How can you beat worms for easy-care, quiet pets?! :)

You'll need:

-- a clean, dry 2-liter plastic bottle (just rinse well; don't use soap)
-- an Xacto knife or razor blade to cut the top off the bottle
-- sand, dirt, newspaper for inside worm house
-- trowel for digging up wormy friends
-- plastic wrap to put across top of house
-- veggie scraps or rice cereal powder to feed your worms

Step One: Using your razor blade or Xacto Knife, cut the top rounded part off of your 2-liter bottle:

Step Two: Have your child help you shred up some newspaper. (Don't use any glossy inserts or magazine stuff; just the regular ol' newspaper). Put a couple of inches of newspaper in the bottom of the worm house.

Step Three: Layer sand and dirt, alternately, up to a few inches from the top of your worm house. A couple of inches of dirt, a couple of sand; and so on. I think we had space to do this cycle just 2 times. Somewhere in the middle of this, you can sprinkle a little baby oatmeal or rice cereal powder for the worms to eat; or toss in a few pieces of diced veggie like tomato scraps, a couple potato peels (diced very small) -- something the worms can eat.

Step Four: Find your worms! This may be easiest after a rain. We found one big nightcrawler, which we gave to our friend, and then a bunch of teeny tiny worms. (I read later that nightcrawlers feel the vibrations when you are digging, and they hurry down deeper, which was probably why we only caught that one and no others. You have to be a little fast to catch them! The regular garden worms are easy, though.) My daughter got so into her worms that we actually bought a few more nightcrawlers from a pet shop the next day, so she could see them better.

Step Five: Place a layer of plastic wrap across the top of your worm house and poke a few small holes in it. Keep it in a cool, dark place for up to 10 days. Check on your worms a few times a day, and you will see them dig tunnels, gradually mixng the sand and dirt together. Sometimes they will even slide right alongside the plastic, and you can see their insides. Be sure to put the worm house back in its dark place when you are done (more than a few minutes of light at a time is bad for them). After a week or so, release them into your garden or compost pile, where they will live on happily, keeping your garden healthy.



We learned a lot about worms during our "worm week."

We read the books Diary of a Worm and Bob and Otto. Both very good!

We enjoyed the narrative and videos at The Adventures of Herman the Worm, a great web site for kids from the University of Illinois extension. (We especially were interested in learning about the worms' anatomy -- did you know they have a gizzard, like a chicken does? It's a little organ right behind their mouths and it's filled with teensy rock particles. When a worm ingests food, it can't chew, so the gizzard grinds up the food into smaller particles that the worm is able to digest. One of our worms slithered right along the plastic container and we were able to see its gizzard in action!)

Worms also have five hearts! We learned this on the great web site Wendell the Worm. You can see a little video of a worm's five hearts pumping blood. You can also see a video of a baby worm hatching from a cocoon smaller than a grain of rice. (I had trouble linking to these directl, so you can click on the "All About Earthworms" links to get there.)

Herman's "Worm Facts" are fascinating -- we learned that there are worms in Australia that regularly grow to 12 feet long! The longest worm ever found was in South America, and was 22 feet long! Aaaa! We pulled out the tape measure and tried to imagine worms as long as our whole house!

You can visit Wendell the Worm's cousins, including Larry Leech and Paulette Planaria.

You can eat a "worm snack" if you dare -- a cup of chocolate pudding with a gummy worm stuck inside, and cookie crumbs sprinkled on top. ;)

"Worm Art" -- glue lots of lengths of different colored string on sandpaper.

This link was really fun....have your child click on their state to see worm pictures sent in from kids in that state.

Can your child figure out what's funny about this poem?:

It's such a shock,
I almost screech
When I find a worm
inside my peach!

But then, what really
makes me blue
Is to find a worm
who's bit in two!

-William Cole

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