Free Nature Studies: Busy Plowmen (Earthworms)

Earthworms are tireless workers who prepare the soil so that plants can grow.

Read the current chapter online: “Busy Plowmen (Earthworms)”

  • Make a list of the benefits the earthworm provides.  Besides those listed at the top of page 19, you’ll find other benefits in the resources listed below.
  • View a picture of a medieval plow, a two-horse plow, a four-horse plow, and a modern tractor plow.
  • Compare and contrast the differences and similarities between the earthworm and a plow.
  • Explore the anatomy of an earthworm.  You’ll find resources below.
  • Observe how an earthworm moves at
  • Read the Bible verse referred to in the lesson, “God’s choice of the weak things to put to shame the things that are strong,” in 1 Corinthians 2:27.
  • You’ll find optional resources for the experiment below.
  • Something to do #1: You can use Drawing & Writing Paper or one of the other notebooking resources listed below.  Use these step-by-step instructions from for help in drawing a scientific diagram of an earthworm.
  • Something to do #2:  More of the earthworm’s story from the Book of Knowledge:

Men owe much to that small, boneless, limbless creature, the earthworm.  It is a living mill, grinding up soil day and night to make a fine bed in which our plant life may take root.

The body of the earthworm looks like a long tube, made up of many rings, or segments.  The thin, pointed front end is the head, with a mouth that has neither jaws nor teeth but a lip for grasping.  A muscular sac, called the pharynx, leads from the mouth to the gullet, or food canal.  This sac supplies a suction that helps the worm in taking in its food.

The matter eaten, as it passes down the gullet, comes in contact with glands that are not found in any other animal.  These glands make and give out a large quantity of carbonate of lime which aids in breaking down the food for digestion.

From the gullet to the gizzard the meal progresses and, arrived in this powerful mill, it undergoes a grinding similar to that to which the food of a bird is subject.  In the gizzard, as we should expect, are numerous small stones, varying between one-twentieth and one-tenth of an inch in diameter.  They are the millstones of the miller of the soil.

Having been ground in the gizzard, the food passes on into the long food canal which runs to the end of the worm’s body.  When all nutriment that can be extracted has been obtained, the residue passes on and is expelled from the earthworm’s body, and issues from the opening of its burrow in what we know and see in the soil as wormcasts.

The earthworm has no eyes, but it has quick-acting sense organs.  It can detect the difference between light and dark.  It never shows itself in bright daylight unless it is frightened from its hole, or unless it is sick and ailing, or threatened by the flooding of its dwelling.

With no nose, it can smell; with no ears, it can detect vibrations.  It breathes through its skin; it feels heat and cold; it is keenly sensitive to touch; it displays a decided sense of taste in the choice of its food, showing preferences for various types of vegetation over other kinds, choosing the fat of flesh before the lean, and liking fresh meat better than foul, though not disdaining to eat the bodies of its dead kind.The thickened ring of color, lighter than the rest of the body, near the head marks the presence of a gland from which is poured out the fluid composing the cocoon in which the eggs of the earthworm are laid.

Eggs so laid produce little earthworms resembling their parents in all but size; these worms do not undergo the wonderful changes of form such as mark the career of the insects.

“The Earthworm and Its Cousins,” The Book of Knowledge
  • Something to do #3:  The narration exercise can be written in the notebook for older students or told by a younger student and transcribed by Mom, then placed in the notebook.  Older students may be interested in substituting a more encyclopedia-type essay.
  • Use the Bible verses listed for copywork or dictation.
  • The Earthworm
    Ready to go outdoors?  The Handbook of Nature study covers earthworms beginning on page 422.

Further Investigation

Worm Facts
Interesting things to know about worms at the University of Illinois Extension.

Can’t Live Without Me
The value of worms also at the University of Illinois Extension.

Why Earthworms are Important
The many benefits they provide.

The Living Soil: Earthworms
The correlation between number of earthworms per acre and soil health.

Earthworm Anatomy
Exploring “Herman the Worm” from head to toe, so to speak.

The Anatomy of an Earthworm
More extensive detail for older students from Carolina Biological Supply Company.

Basic information at Enchanted Learning.


Earthworms Inside and Out
Interactive at the University of Waikato that explores earthworm anatomy.

The Adventures of Herman
Cute interactive from the University of Illinois Extension to help students become familiar with worms!

Quart Jar Worm Farm
An option for the experiment from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Earthworm Dissection
Interactive virtual lab at Carolina.  Labeling and answering questions are the main activities.

Earthworm Dissection
Instructions for dissection for older students at

Worms in Dirt
Fun and easy to make snack at!

Free Nature Studies: Busy Plowmen (Earthworms)

An Earthworm’s Life by John Himmelman
Part of the Nature Upclose series, this beautifully illustrated book explains the life of the worm for younger audiences.

Sea-Side and Way-Side (Vol. 2) by Julia McNair Wright
Recommended go-along in the public domain, these nature readers form part of the Christian Liberty Nature Readers series.  The earthworm is covered in chapters 11-15.

Free Nature Studies: Busy Plowmen (Earthworms)

Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
Part of the Lets-Read-And-Find-Out Science series, covers the habits of worms along with a few activities to try on your own!

John Deere’s Steel Plow
History of the modern plow.  In the public domain.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Worm Watching
Lesson plan at the Smithsonian with background information, activities, and extension ideas for watching earthworms.

Anatomy of an Earthworm
Study that includes labeling diagrams, dissection questions, and critical thinking analysis.

Earthworm Dissection Lab
Complete instructions and questions (with answers) in this BioWiki posted by John R. Sowash.

Earthworms on the Job
Unit from Ag in the Classroom that covers anatomy, life cycle, movement, relationship to soil, and habitat. Great printables!

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Worm Coloring Book
Educational activity book for K-3 from USDA.

Earthworm Anatomy
Diagram for notebook.

Label Earthworm External Anatomy
Notebooking page at

Drawing & Writing Notebooking Paper {Free Download}
For drawing a picture of an earthworm, Something to Do #1.

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}
Free blank nature journal sets for drawing, illustrating, copying, or narrating.

Busy Plowmen Notebooking Pages
For telling the story of “The Earthworm’s Help,” Something to Do #3, copywork, narrations, and wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series:
Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World
Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World

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