We Like Worms!

Children will learn about earthworms.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

The children will learn about the many functions of earthworms and their importance in the environment.


What You'll Need

  • Live earthworms – 12 or more (available online, bait stores, or dig them up in your garden)
  • Paper towels
  • Clear container (an aquarium or large plastic pretzel container)
  • Empty 1- or 2-liter bottle
  • Water mister
  • Gravel – enough to cover the bottom of the container
  • Potting soil – 1 bag
  • Dry leaves – enough for a layer over the gravel
  • Disposable gloves – 1 pair per child
  • Markers
  • Chart paper

What To Do

Note: This activity can be completed in 1 day; observation of the worms will take place over several days.

  1. Activate background knowledge about earthworms. Write ideas on the chart paper.
  2. Talk with the children about observing earthworms over the next few weeks.
  3. Place the earthworms on a wet paper towel away from direct sunlight.
  4. Talk about how earthworms need moisture to survive.
  5. Ask the children if they think the earthworms like the towel to be wet, and why.
  6. Allow the children some time to observe the earthworms.
  7. Encourage the children to gently touch the worms. Offer disposable gloves to children who express hesitation with touching the worms. Ask them questions about the earthworms such as their color, shape, eyes, legs, and how they move (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  8. Place gravel in the clear container. Layer leaves on top of the gravel, then potting soil on top of the leaves.
  9. If the container is very large, place a 1- or 2-liter bottle filled with water (lid fastened tightly) on its side in the center of the container and surround the bottle with gravel, soil, and leaves. This will stop the worms from going to the middle of the container where the children will not be able to see them.
  10. Add water to moisten the contents of the container. Do not allow the soil mixture to dry out.
  11. Punch holes in the lid of the container so the worms have air.
  12. Over the next few days, observe the earthworms. Chart children’s observations about what the worms are doing in the soil and what is happening to the leaves.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe where earthworms like to live.
  • Describe what type of soil earthworms like.
  • Describe what you have observed about the earthworms in our container. How do they move?
  • Describe what earthworms like to eat.
  • Why do we see more earthworms in the spring?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • During dramatic play time, encourage children to move like worms on the carpet.
  • Have the children draw pictures of the earthworms in their container.
  • When out on the playground, have children look for earthworms.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe what the earthworm looks like?
  • Could children talk about how the earthworm moved around?


Did You Know?

The worms in this lesson liked the wet paper towel better than the dry one because they need moisture to survive. If the worm’s skin dries out, it will die. We see more earthworms in the spring because there is more rain. Earthworms like warm, moist, dark places; they are like underground farmers in the soil. They eat lots of dead roots and leaves. As an earthworm eats, the material moves through its body and is secreted in castings that provide nutrients to the soil. Plants use these nutrients as food. Earthworms make tunnels under the ground allowing oxygen and rainwater to penetrate the soil. This also helps plant roots to move through the soil.

Worms have soft bodies that allow them to breathe right through their skin. Although worms can crawl, they do not have any legs. Their bodies are made in ring-like segments that allow them to move by contracting and expanding along the ground. Earthworms do not have any teeth, but they do eat tons of dirt, leaves, stems, and dead roots. They do this by pulling food into their mouths with a strong vacuum-like suction. Earthworms can eat one third of their body weight in a single day. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • earthworm – an animal with a long, thin, round or flat body with no legs.
  • gravel – a loose mixture of small stones and sometimes sand.
  • leaves – more than one leaf; a flat part of a plant or tree that grows from the stem or branch.
  • observe – to watch with care.
  • tunnel – something dug under the ground; sometimes things travel through tunnels to get from one place to another underground.
  • underground – located, living, or taking place beneath the surface of the Earth.

Lesson Tips

  • When your class is finished observing the worms, release them back into their natural habitat, outside.
  • Earthworms are larger worms that like to burrow deep into the soil. You may prefer to use red worms (found at bait shops) because they live in just the first six inches of soil. If you are considering setting up a permanent composting bin, red worms would be a better choice because they are good composters.
  • This lesson can be messy and fun when you allow the children to help assemble the container for keeping the worms.
  • Some children may be uncomfortable touching the earthworms; provide extra time for them to get used to observing the worms and allow children to decide if they want to touch them. Provide disposable gloves for children to use.
  • This lesson can also be used as a transition lesson for learning about animals that crawl.


  • Garden Wigglers: Worms in Your Backyard by Rick Charles Peterson
  • Wiggling Worms At Work by Wendy Pfeffer
  • Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser
  • An Earthworm’s Life by John Himmelman

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS