Building a worm farm

A fun way to welcome spring is by studying plants and animals.  Last week, we brought worms into the classroom.  The children examined the slippery, slimy earth worms up close through some sensory exploration and then we created a worm farm…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

We began our morning by reading And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

This is a beautiful book about a little boy who plants some seeds and then eagerly waits for them to grow.  The illustrations are stunning!  After reading the book through once, we went back and looked at the pictures.  We spent quite a bit of time looking at all of the details in this particular picture.  This illustration shows all that is happening underground.  We were particularly interested in the tunnels that all of the animals created.  There were ants, mice, moles, and worms, all burrowing beneath the boy’s garden…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

Next, I brought out a gummy worm.  The children were all worried that it may be a REAL worm!  We talked about the gummy worm and passed it around the room.  We discussed what it looked like, what it felt like, and what it smelled like.  Then, among shrieks of excitement, I brought out the real worm for comparison…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

Unlike the gummy worm, no one wanted to pass the real worm around the room to taste or smell it!  After comparing and contrasting the living and nonliving worm, we took 2 tubs of live worms and released them onto some soil we had set out on trays…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

There were magnifying glasses, rakes, and tweezers for examining the worms.  I deliberately chose tweezers that I knew would be a bit difficult for the children to squeeze.  As I explained to the children, the tweezers were there more as a tool for scooping up the worms, rather than squeezing them…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

You may be wondering if all of the children participated in the worm exploration activity.  Most of them did, but a few did not.  Those that chose to play with the worms really enjoyed themselves, those that were not comfortable were not pressured into giving it a try. We have learned that it is different playing on a table with worms then going outside and exploring worms in their natural environment. Perhaps when the weather gets nice and we can get outside to hunt for worms, all of our students will be more interested in taking a close look…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

After we finished up with our worms and other centers, we went outside to create a new home for our worms.  We weren’t quite ready to release them into the wild just yet.  Instead, we created a worm farm!  We used a large, clear plastic tub for our worm farm…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

The children began creating our worm farm by adding the soil and worms to our container.  They also added dried, crunched up leaves that would serve as food for the worms…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

After a few layers of soil and leaves, the children would take turns using the spray bottle to make sure everything was nice and moist for the worms…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

Once all of the worms were in their new home, we added some plastic wrap around the top.  We poked a few holes in the plastic so the worms would have plenty of air…

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

The next day, we took a close look at our new worm habitat.  The children enjoyed trying to find the worms.  As we passed the worm farm around, I pointed out the tunnels that the worms had burrowed in the soil over night.

Building a worm farm by Teach Preschool

One thing that I learned during this process was that worms are nocturnal.  They prefer darkness.  If you would like to see more activity from your worms, wrap your container in black paper.  When you remove the paper, you will see more worms near the outer walls of your container. We will keep our worms for just a few more days to see if we can observe any new activity.  Then we will release them back into the “wild.”  I’m certain those worms will be so relieved…

Available on Amazon

Links to grow on:

Exploring life cycles by Teach Preschool

Observing worms by Spell Out Loud

Clubhouse worm diary by Fit Kids Clubhouse

Linking up with Teachers of Good Things

By |2013-03-30T06:00:42+00:00March 30th, 2013|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Jan K March 30, 2013 at 8:01 am - Reply

    If you put an empty container in the middle of your soil it pushes or forces the worms to tunnel around the outside of the jar. The worms are more visible and easier to watch.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 30, 2013 at 9:47 am - Reply

      What a great idea. We found that if we just added a piece of black paper around the jar while the children were not looking at it, that the worms would go to the edges of the jar as well. When we removed the paper, the worms would wiggle back to the inside of the dirt:)

  2. Veens March 30, 2013 at 8:34 am - Reply

    What an amazing earthworm study! I cannot wait to do this with Aarya, he will love it.

  3. Marc Lefse March 30, 2013 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Please remember to use correct science when posting about earth science, or do enough research before actually starting this project with the students. You still need to use a piece of dark paper and wrap it around your jar so the worms will nestle between the jar walls and the dirt. Then, after a little while, you can take the paper off to the children can actually see the paths the worms make while moving in the jar.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 30, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

      As was shared in the last paragraph of the post: “One thing that I learned during this process was that worms are nocturnal. They prefer darkness. If you would like to see more activity from your worms, wrap your container in black paper. When you remove the paper, you will see more worms near the outer walls of your container.” Please be sure to read an entire post before leaving a comment and not just look at photos! If you would like to see our jar wrapped in black paper then you are welcome to go here and view this 3 minute video. Somehow, we never managed to take a photo of it before we were ready to share :

  4. Brenna March 30, 2013 at 9:21 am - Reply

    We did worm experiments a couple of times during the year. The students loved it.

  5. amber whitehead March 30, 2013 at 10:48 am - Reply

    How cool was this day at preschool! I want to give this a try. We haven’t checked out worms yet.


    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 30, 2013 at 11:37 am - Reply

      It was very cool:)

  6. Dollie @ Teachers of Good Things March 30, 2013 at 11:15 am - Reply

    I would love for you to link this post and some of your other ones on our Tender Moments with Toddlers & Preschoolers Thursdays linkup.

    My readers would love this idea! I found you on Pinterest, after pinning it to my board.

  7. Dawn March 30, 2013 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I love this… And I actually just received the book and then it’s spring in my scholastic book order 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Perfect timing!!

  8. Tracy April 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    I’m surprised to see that you have the kids playing in soil with fertilizer with their bare hands. Gardening gloves or no fertilized soil would be a safer option for children.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      You might also be surprised to know that my students dig into all kinds of stuff with their hands and after 25 years of teaching, I am happy to report that all my students have left my classroom safe, happy, healthy, well-adjusted, critical thinkers and competent children. A simple handwashing after play seems to be doing much good!

      • tracy April 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm

        Our preschoolers also dig in many things including soil. Just not fertilized soil, for safety reasons.

      • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm

        I was doing a little search to try and find “clean dirt” and couldn’t find anything. It seems ALL dirt has something in it that would be considered “unsafe” it eaten or hands left unwashed – even the dirt in your own yard. I think the key is to be wise about children’s play and know that if you plan for young children to play in something like dirt – then make sure to wash hands and know what age you are working with so you know if there are other precautions you can or should take.

  9. Phyllis Swinehart April 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    We are getting ready to study worms this week. I am so excited. I have been building up to this week dropping hints here & there & the kiddos are excited for it to finally be here. It is really the teacher that sets the exploration the 1st day but after that they will come up with so many ideas, it’s incredible! Can you tell we have done this before.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      Haha – yes I can and I love your enthusiasm!!

  10. jwgmom February 28, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    It looks like your kids were not permitted to do anything to harm the worms, which is not always the case. I have seen videos where kids were allowed to swing the worms around, poke them with sharp objects, and even one where a toddler broke a worm in half. That one, by the way, was on a video by a reputable training organization! Any activity which involves living creatures should start with a discussion of treating them with respect and not causing pain or harm.

  11. Debra Allen October 7, 2018 at 12:20 am - Reply

    amazing activity well detailed for worm exploration. Im starting a worm in my preschool so will begin with your activity. Love the use of gummy worm to start, then the real life worm – excellent work Deborah.
    from Keep it Real another Debra

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