As well as learning about the world around us, we've also been learning about the world of worms this week! I recently picked up a Worm World from a local charity shop and Jenson spotted it in his home ed cupboard. He has shown great enthusiasm and is excited to have them as his new 'pets'!
First job was to fill Worm World with layers of varying material. Ideally you want to use different coloured layers so you can see how the worms mix the soil, but we used what we had available. Because we used brandling earthworms, (found in compost heaps) we alternated between compost, soil and dead leaves.
Jenson then poured two cups of water into his Worm World to make the tunnelling materials nice and damp.
Next task was to find the worms. We had a good dig around in our compost and filled a whole bowl up in just a few minutes. Jenson loved feeling them wriggle and slither in his hands.
Jenson then placed all the worms into his Worm World and secured the lid. When not looking at the worms, it is best to use the shade cover provided, this protects the worms from daylight, which they do not like.
Jenson needs to keep the material damp and needs to feed the worms every so often with vegetable waste we might normally throw on our compost. We can also shred up old newspaper and use that. Here he is feeding the worms some old carrot peelings.
After we settled the worms into their new home, we sat down together and read through the little booklet that came in the pack. It was ever so informative and answered all of the questions that Jenson asked, such as can worms see, how do worms breathe and how long do worms live for? It was lovely to see him so interested and to hear him ask such good questions.
Here are some things we learnt:
There are over 3000 different kinds of earthworm, many of which are very small. However in Australia there is a giant species that can grow to over 3m in length!
Charles Darwin estimated that each year earthworms bring between 8 to 10 tons of soil to the surface per acre of land, (about 15 tons per football pitch.)
Earthworms have no lungs but they do need oxygen, which is absorbed through tiny pores in their skin.
An earthworm cannot see as it has no eyes. It also can't hear or smell. The earthworm however is extremely sensitive to vibrations in the soil and thus avoids danger. Earthworms can tell when it is raining by the vibrations of rain drops on the soil and may move to the surface when they 'feel' it is raining.
Worms live for 2 years.
Worms contribute enormously to the well being of our planet. Their lifestyle creates conditions that makes soil fertile, helping plants grow strong and healthy, which in turn supports an abundance of wildlife.
The tunnelling action of a worm aerates the soil. Air is essential in the decomposition process of dead plants which provide essential nutrients for living plants.
The worm's tunnels ensure water soaks deep into the ground, instead of running away, which provides a precious source of moisture for plant roots, and helps to stop soil drying out and turning to dust.
As a worm feeds, its digestive juices help release nutrients that plants feed on. They also constantly move soil from deep underground to the surface providing essential nutrients and minerals to keep plants healthy.
A worm does not live if it is cut in two.