Life Cycle - Natural Environment (2A)

  • Exploring decomposers in the natural environment.
  • Observing a worm "family". 
  • decomposer
  • leaf litter
  • dead leaves
  • worms
  • a large glass jar 
  • gardening tools (or spoons), containers, sand, soil

Students observe worms.   


Worms play an important role in keeping the soil in good condition.  They  eat microbes on the leaf litter and pull down leaves into the soil as they tunnel.  Their leftovers help enrich the soil and make conditions better for plants.  

Worm tunnels also help to get air down to the plants' roots.  Plant roots stretch down through the soil where they can absorb the air, water, and nutrients needed for growth. Bacteria and algae also inhabit the soil.   They, along with fungi, earthworms and other soil creatures play an important role in the decomposition of organic material.  Decomposers help break down dead plants and animal tissue.  Nutrients are returned to the soil, where they become available to plants.    


  1. Prior to lab, ask children to bring in worms, or ask for a volunteer to get worms.  Stores that sell bait may have live worms.  Some children seem to better at worm catching than others.
  2. Students should work in pairs, unless each child brings in his own supplies.  Fill the jar with alternating layers of soil and sand so the worms will easily wiggle through.  Make each layer about 1 inch deep and spray each one with water so the worms will easily wiggle through.  Gently put the worms into the jar, keeping them away from bright light.  The larger the jar the more worms it can sustain (e.g.,  a mayonnaise-type jar can hold about 5 or 6 worms.) 
  3. Cover the top layer of soil with dead leaves and then cover the whole jar with a dark cloth or put it in a dark place because the worms have to think they are underground. Make sure that students do not seal the jars tight since the worms need air to survive. 
  4. After 3-5 days, have students look at the worm farm and answer the questions on the lab sheet.  Have them write down what they observe. The worms will have tunneled through the soil and sand, so that the different layers have begun to mix together.  They have also dragged the leaves down into the soil with them.  Return the worms to the soil, they will die if left in the jar. 

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