Build a Wormery


Suitable for: Early Years, Primary, Secondary 

Did you know?  Compost worms can eat about half their body weight in food waste in one day.  Worm composting can turn kitchen and garden waste into nutrient-rich compost and liquid fertiliser called worm tea!

You'll need:

  • At least two plastic boxes, the same size. The top one needs a lid.
  • A drill or awl for punching holes (with adult supervision)
  • kitchen waste and/or a small amount of garden waste
  • wet cardboard
  • soil
  • worms! - Tiger Worms (Eisenia fetidaare best
  • optional - a tap attachment for collecting worm tea


Watch the video below where Rachel from The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland explains how to build your wormery and how to take care of these fantastic ambassadors for recycling!

Once you've built your wormery, try these follow on activities:

Mild: Keep a diary of looking after your worms.  Weigh how much waste you feed them to keep track of how much they are turning into compost.  You could add observations of the conditions in the wormery or stories from the worm's point of view. What foods do the worms seem to like best? How do they move around the wormery? What food waste composts the fastest? You can do this in a floorbook or flipchart as well, writing pupils' observations of the worms or descriptive words.

Medium: Did you know that here in the UK we have 29 different species of earthworms? And that they can have up to 5 pairs of little pumps that act like hearts? With much care, study one of your worms with the help of a magnifying glass and make a drawing of everything you can see. Label your drawing using books or the internet try to identify the different parts of the body of a worm.  Once your wormery is established, try to find worms at different life stages - eggs, adults and young worms.

Spicy: Worms naturally aerate soil by making tunnels. They have bristles (called setae) on each segment that help the worms grip as they stretch and contract to move through the soil. Can you see these bristles on your worms?  You can observe worms mixing layers of soil with a simple classroom experiment.  Layer soil and sand in a large jar, moisten and cover with wet leaves.  Add a small number of earthworms (not your Tiger Worms) and cover with a cloth to keep the light out. Make sure you punch holes in the lid for air. Watch over the course of a month or so to see the worms mix the layers.  When you have finished observing the earthworms, let them go in a suitable place in your school grounds.  You can also try a larger version of this experiment using an old window.

Extension: Investigate the fertilising power of worm tea!  Once your wormery has been working for long enough to produce worm tea, conduct a plant growth experiment with five identical plants. Give one plant only water, the second 10% worm tea, the third 20% worm tea, the third 50%, and the last 100%. (Remember you need to dilute the worm tea before you use it). Record what you think will happen before you begin the experiment, then observe differences between the plants as they grow. What is in the worm tea that benefits plants?

You can try this experiment with the compost generated by your worms too. Again, use five of the same type of seed or small plants and grow one in plain soil, and the rest in increasing amounts of compost - one in 10%, one in 20%, one in 50% and one in 100%. Keep all other conditions the same, and record your hypothesis before you start: what do you think will happen? Record your observations as the plants grow. Do they all grow the same amount? In the same time? If you chose plants that fruit is the harvest the same? Write up your results to share.

Worm Facts: 

  • Charles Darwin spent 38 years studying earthworms.
  • Earthworms eat decaying plant material and do not damage growing plants.
  • Worms ‘breathe’ through their skin, which is why they need to be in a moist environment.
  • They become paralysed if they are exposed to the light for too long (1 hour aprox) and unable to burrow somewhere dark. They detect the light through their skin as they have no eyes.
  • Worms can regenerate some segments of their body depending on where the cut happened, but you can’t get two worms out of cutting a worm in half (as many people seem to believe).
  • Worms are cold blooded and their blood is red just like ours, as it has haemoglobin.
  • In average worms can live about 2 years, but could live as long as 8 years.
  • Believe it or not, they have tiny hairs in each of their ring segments!
  • Worms are hermaphrodites, which means they are both female and male, but they can’t reproduce by themselves.
  • Baby worms hatch from cocoons.
  • The longest species of worm is the Gippsland Giant in Australia, and they can reach up to 3m long (9.8ft).
  • Worms have been around for about 600 million years. They were here before and during the time of dinosaurs!

Share your results with us!

We would love to see what you've done with our activities.  Please share your results with us:


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