Working with Worms
I recently had the great opportunity to visit Ms. Margo Lapitino’s kindergarten class at Winthrop Elementary STEM Magnet School, in New London, Connecticut. They were in the middle of a study of earthworms that involved reading about worms, asking questions, and conducting an investigation to answer their questions.
I wanted to tell you all about this wonderful inquiry opportunity, but it’s much better to show you.
Worm Business: A Photo Gallery
Before the investigation, students reviewed their background knowledge of worms.
The previous day, students generated questions that they wanted to answer as a result of their investigation.
Ms. Lapitino posted questions to guide and focus the students’ investigations.
Worm bins, as well as fish bowls and other science materials, were accessible to students on the counter.
A very lively bunch of worms!
The learning objectives for all learning tasks were posted, in kid-friendly language.
A fifth grade helper acted as coach and materials handler for the kindergarten class.
Students practiced handling the worms gently and safely.
Worms were placed on damp paper towels to keep their skim moist.
Investigations ended with a record of their study in their “science notebook.”
Students drew first, to organize their thoughts, then wrote.
A teacher could take language samples by transcribing student conversation as they drew.
Students noted the segmentation of the worms, something they had learned the day before.
Adult transcription was used judiciously, to help some students convey their ideas.
Ms. Lapitino took a moment for a mini-lesson on plurals formed by adding ‘s’ to the base word.
Students learned that adult worms have both male and female organs in a ring. Observation: “I noticed that the worms had a ring.”
Student comment: “I drew two worms because I want to use one of our math words.” Observation: “The worm was longer than the other one.”
Observation: “I saw worms twist and move.”
Observation: “I saw that they were disgusting!” [NOTE: This student was able to handle the worms the next day!]
Observation: “The worm was skinny. They like me.”
Observation: “Worms don’t have backbones.”
Observation: “The worms do not have eyes.”
Observations: “The worms are nasty and slimy. They are wiggly.”
Observation: “I saw Jaquis drop the worm on my paper.”
Students reviewed and practiced hygiene procedures used in a science classroom.
By the third day of the study, all the students summoned the courage to handle the worms.
Explore other posts on this blog for more simple ideas that lead to powerful scientific thinking.
Worm Follow-up Studies
Because students still weren’t sure how to tell the head of the worm from its tail, they did a study the next day with a folded paper tent, to see if the worm would go under the tent, and, if so, which end it would use to go through.
For more information on the kinds of investigations students can do using earthworms, see Handbook Of Nature Study (“The Earthworm,” pp. 421-425), by Anna Botsford Comstock.
Notes on Working with Worms in Class
While this classroom used earthworms for their investigations, if you wish to create a worm bin in your classroom, you will be more successful if you choose red wrigglers instead of earthworms. Red wrigglers, or composting worms, are commonly sold in 1/2 pt containers at bait shops, or, if you have a compost pile, you can collect them from the wild. Earthworms are sensitive to ambient temperatures, and prefer their world much cooler than most indoor temperatures, and may not survive inside. Composting worms, as their name suggests, are the worms that you find in your compost pile, so they like their environment quite warm, and will not mind classroom temperatures at all. Additionally, they are lively, and reproduce easily in captivity, producing many offspring with very little coddling.
Additional teacher book resources
Classroom library selections