Search for Resources

Building a Vermicomposter- Secondary



This ESD resource focuses on a sustainable approach to managing organic waste. Students explore the environmental, social and economic aspects of waste disposal and apply what they have learned by building and operating a vermicomposter.

The activities are divided into several sections.

Part A – Getting Ready – Asking Why?

Activity A1 : Students draw a map to illustrate where the waste they produce goes and the economic, social, and environmental consequences that result along the way.

Activity A2 : Students design their own controlled experiment to determine the various factors that affect decomposition.

Part B – Building the Composter Day

Activity B1 : As a warm-up, students answer trivia questions from different categories such as worm facts, composting basics and environmental, social & economic perspectives on waste disposal.

Activity B2: Working in groups, students conduct a 'lunch waste' audit, categorize the types of waste collected and figure out what percentage is recyclable and compostable as opposed to being 'garbage'.

Activity B3: After viewing a brief video on how to build a vermicomposter, students construct their own version.

Activity B4: Students participate in a class discussion on how to appropriately handle and care for the composter worms. Students who feel comfortable are encouraged to touch the worms and examine their physical characteristics.

Activity B5: After conducting research, students create a brochure that describes the process of composting.

Activity B6: The class compiles all the data they collected regarding the types and amounts of waste. This data is used in activity C5.

Part C includes essential follow-up activities.

Activity C1: Students answer reflection questions.

Activity C2: Students create an easy-to-read poster highlighting the steps involved in feeding the worms.

Activity C3: The class develops and implements a plan for feeding, monitoring and caring for the worms.

Activity C4: Students prepare a short educational presentation for other classes that will receive a composter.

Activity C5: Students individually create a graph that shows the distribution of waster based on the class data from activity B2.

Activity C6: Students create a log to track the distribution of waste in the class.

Part D includes activities to extend the learning.

Activity D1: Students create a diagram to illustrate the inputs, outputs and activities of the vermicomposter as a system.

Activity D2: Students brainstorm ideas on how they can reduce the amount of waste they send to the landfill. Students then choose a time-frame for honouring their commitment. They will keep a log of how the process goes.

Activity D3: Students harvest the compost, then donate it to a suitable recipient such as a community garden.

Activity D4: The class conducts a waste audit of the entire school.

Activity D5: Students reduce more waste by creating then selling or sharing reusable bags. Students can also create posters for local grocery stores encouraging people to bring their own bags.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The resource explicitely teaches:

  • Experiment design skills (activity A2)
  • Designing a brochure (activity B5)
  • Care for worms (activity C2)


This action-project is original and interesting. The first two parts of the resource are very well developed and include sufficient support materials for the teacher and students. There is a good balance of hands-on activities and written activities to engage a wide range of learner types.


The two latter parts of the resource will require additional material to be provided by the teacher.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 12: Sustainable land use is essential to meet the needs of a growing population
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Senior 2 Science: Dynamics of Ecosystems
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Sustainability of Ecosystems
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Advanced Environmental Science 120:Introduction to the human sphere
        • Introduction to Environmental Science 120: An Overview of Environmental Science
        • Introduction to Environmental Science 120: Investigating Environmental Issues
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 1206: Sustainability of Ecosystems
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 2200: Ecosytems
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 3205: Introduction to Environmental Science
        • Environmental Science 3205: Land Use & the Environment
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 10: Sustainability of Ecosystems
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Interactions in the Physical Environment
        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Managing Canada's Resources and Industries
        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Applied): Interactions in the Physical Environment
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science (Academic):Biology: Sustainable Ecosystems
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science (Univ/College Prep.) Reducing and Managing Waste
        • Environmental Science (Univ/College Prep.) Scientific Solutions to Contemporary Environmental Challenges
        • Environmental Science (Workplace Prep.) Human Impact on the Environment
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Regional Geography (Univ./College Prep.): Sustainability and Stewardship
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • The Environment & Resource Management (Univ./College Prep.):Sustainability and Stewardship of Natural Resources
        • World Issues: A Geographic Analysis (Univ. Prep.):Sustainability and Stewardship
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 431A: Life Science, Sustainability of Ecosystems
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 621A: Environmental Challenges and Successes
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 10: Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 12: Sustainable land use is essential to meet the needs of a growing population

Themes Addressed

  • Waste Management (3)

    • Composting
    • Solid Waste Disposal
    • Source Reduction

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

Students are explicitly directed to examine the ecological, social and economic implications of waste.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good
Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Very Good

Students are definitely active participants in their learning. Their efforts will have a positive impact on their school and their community

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

Throughout every phase of the project, students must answer reflection questions, orally or in writing to clarify what they are doing and why.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

Students are taught the value of the worms and how to care for them in a safe and humane manner.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good

The learning is directed at the school and in the community.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Students are asked to consider the impacts of waste now and in the future.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

In many of the activities, students choose which approach they will adopt. The practical nature of the building and operation of the composter require some direction.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

This project includes elements of various subjects:

  • designing a brochure (media class & writing)
  • collecting and graphing data (math)
  • learning about the worms and their roles in nature (biology)
  • teaching others how to use a vermicomposter (presentation skills)
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

Although students will experience ah hah moments throughout this project, they must learn how to build and operate a vermicomposter.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Very Good

This project includes a very good variety of activities that meet the needs of all types of learners.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

Students will indeed reduce waste by creating real compost.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students will be working in groups, but cooperative learning skills are not explicitly taught.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Assessment options are provided through the initial sections of the resource but are lacking in detail and with the exception of B5, do not include rubrics.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

Students will teach other classes how to use a vermicomposter. They will also teach waste-reducing strategies to the school and the community.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

Students are given limited choices throughout the project, but all students create a vermicomposter and all students create a brochure.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.