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Worm composting

The worm compost box offers an opportunity to pupils, to gather deeper knowledge on natural decomposition processes. As a model for an organic soil in a deciduous forest it introduces to the ecological importance of different earthworm species.

The worm compost box allows to observe how worms are living and how they are helping to decompose organic material. Conducting it in parallel to «The classroom compost box» provides an opportunity to observe differences in organic decomposition in the presence or absence of worms.

Learning goals

Background information

In Central Europe, the biomass of earthworms in one-hectare of soil can be as high as three tons. Earthworms are eating and digesting plant residues and other organic materials. They break up soil clumps and thus improve soil drainage and soil aeration. Therefore they are a key species in natural decomposition processes. If worms are present in a compost, and active in draining, aerating, mixing and chopping the material, they will take over a lot of work from the compost bacteria and accelerate the decomposition process.

Worm composts usually also do not get hot since contrary to bacteria, worms do not produce heat. There are different species of earthworms that are important for biological decomposition processes. The most important in addition to the common earthworm is the compost worm. The latter is specialised for living in places that are rich in dead organic material. Compost worm are commonly found in garden composts and complement the decomposition work of the bacteria. The end product of such a worm compost provides more plant available nutrients than a common garden compost.

Time requirement

It will take 2-4 weeks until you get visible and measurable differences between «The classroom compost box» and the worm compost box.

Material requirement

Let's start

To start the experiment you have to collect about two handful of worms. Good places for collecting worms are organic forest soils or garden composts. It does not matter if you get common earthworms or compost worms.

In the next step you add the collected worms to the compost box that you have to establish according to «The classroom compost box». It is important to provide enough moisture. Worm composts tend to require a slightly higher moisture content than ordinary composts.

(1/2) Forest soils are a good place to collect worms. (3) Approximate amount of worms (two handful) that has to be added to the worm compost box.

See and feel

Didactical comments

This experiment links the knowledge on composting to the importance of earthworms for the productivity of our soils. The pupils will get a link to soil biology and the biological decomposition processes in nature.