Every year when I would teach my rocks and minerals/soil unit, the kids had fun. There are lots of great things to do, but something was missing. I wanted a "Wow" factor. When I saw an article about using earthworms in the classrooms the lightbulb went off! That was it! I could use earthworms to grab my students' attention, and reach into every area of the curriculum at the same time!
Using Worms in Science
1. Science: Of course the first thought about using worms in the classroom is science. During our study of soil I set aside one special day to invite worms into our classrom. I got nightcrawlers from the bait store, aluminum pans with high sides, aluminum foil, a misting bottle, and made sure paper and pencil was available. Worms are escape artists, so it's important to keep a lid on them that is secure, but has holes in it. I used a piece of aluminum foil or tight cling wrap secured tightly around each pan. I then put small holes in the top to let in air. I did this when we needed to leave the room for lunch or whatever.
So, what to do?
2. Make sure you have a spray bottle of water. Worms need to be kept moist, but NOT wet. (think of all those worms on your driveway after a rain) I usually just walk around while the students are observing, and give a spray where needed.
3. Do observations of the earthworms. I get three or four worms for each groups of four to five students. Students can keep notes on worm behavior. First ask them to draw the worm in as much detail as possible. Discuss that each line, and feature should be in the drawing. Ask students which end they think is the head. Next put a black piece of construction paper over 1/2 of the aluminum tin. Record what happens. Do worm research on the computer, then make a poster with a group.
4. At the end of the day, take the worms outside with students. Go to a nice grassy spot and sit the students in a circle. I usually have a circle of boys, and a circle of girls. Put the worms in the center on the grass. If you have a stop watch it's fun to time how long it takes the worms to burrow into the ground. If the ground isn't too hard it's pretty fast.
Take lots of pictures! It's a day your kids won't forget. My kids talked about it even on the last day of school as one of their favorite activities.
I've included some fun worm sites below! Enjoy!
Ok! Now that you have their attention! Time to take Earthworms into the rest of the curriculum!
1. Math: You have their attention! Now it's time to use their interest to draw them into math. Use your curriculum to make up story problems involving worms. You can using any math strand, just include worms! If you can find worm pictures to include on your worksheet, all the better! Ask your students to get with a partner and make up one great story problem involving worms. Then ask students to swap their question with another group's question.
2. Social Studies: Ask students to do research on where different kinds of worms can be found. There's a giant blue earthworm that lives in Borneo, and a worm discovered in 2007 that actually lives below the ocean's surface. There's LOTS of terrific worms out there! This would be a great research project. Students must also give a one paragraph description of the country/area where the worm is found.
3. Reading: There are great books out there about worms, both fiction and non fiction. They are great to use in guided reading, as a class read-aloud, or for individual research. Below are a few of my favorites.
An Earthworm's Live (Nature Unclose) by John Himmelman
Earl The Earthworm Digs for His Life by Tim Magner
Earthworms (Minibeasts) by Claire Liewellyn
Wiggling Worms at Work (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Wendy Pleffer
4. Writing: Once students know all about earthworms, ask them to make their own diary of a worm. They should write a diary that covers one week, including activities worms would experience. Research is always a good writing activity. Once the research is finished, ask students to create a poster about what they learned. When the study of earthworms is concluded, ask students to write about what they learned, and what surprised them.
If you would be interested in my "Wonderful Worm Day" resource that gives handouts, ideas, and everything you need to have to conduct your own Worm Day, Click Here