Investigating worms is a great Spring activity!! On any very wet and rainy day you should be able to venture outside and easily find a handful of these fascinating creatures. Our investigation into worms was spontaneous and fully initiated by the kids (and that really is the best type of learning experience!) They were outside jumping in puddles, they found a few worms, asked to keep them….I hesitated at first, but then thought, “Why not!?” The fun began immediately as my kids searched to collect even more worms in a bucket. I cut them off at around ten worms and I got a glass jar to put them in. We added some potting soil, sandbox sand, grass, and leaves to the jar and placed the worms on top. I got a dishpan to put the jar into in case we had any try to escape (we use these dish bins for lots of messy science fun) and we put them on the dining room table to observe.
Well, now that we had these worms…What were we going to do with them? In the classroom, I would often start a new investigation with a KWL chart, asking the kids what they already KNOW (or think that they know) about worms, what they WANT to know, and then later, what they LEARNED. At home, I didn’t feel that we needed to do this so formally, but I was curious about what they were interested in learning about our new friends. I grabbed a piece of paper and pencil and asked the kids what they wanted to learn about worms. They had a ton of questions and I wrote them all down. A couple of days later, when we had finished our investigations, we then revisited the list of questions and talked about each one, and the kids were able to answer the majority of them by what we had observed and read about worms.
Much of the first day with the worms was spent observing them. I prompted the kids to think like a scientist and really observe the worms, noting differences between them and closely watching their movements. They had a closer look with magnifying glasses and I encouraged them to draw their observations. I added any new questions they came up with during this process to the question sheet. I also took a few moments on the Internet to look up simple experiments and activities to do with worms. I found lots of great activities at STEM Mom and Lemon Lime Adventures.
In our home, respect and compassion for animals (and all creatures) is very important, so I was clear that the kids had to handle the worms gently and not hurt them at all. We also talked about what sorts of things these worms would need to be happy in our home as our temporary guests. How does that compare to what other living creatures need?
Once we had made some observations about our friends we washed our hands and headed to the library to get a stack of books about worms and other invertebrates.
We spent a lot of time through the day reading the library books about worms. Right away, the books allowed us to ensure that we were properly caring for our friends, and make adjustments to their conditions if needed. It was amazing how much we learned! I found a new respect and appreciation for these wonderful creatures. They truly are fascinating and are so important for our Earth.
Appearance, Movement and Heart Beats:
- Using keen observation and a magnifying glass, we carefully placed a worm on a damp paper towel and used what we had read in the books to observe our worms more closely. We examined the segments and watched how the worm appeared to change size and shape as it used it’s segments to move. We measured the length of the worms when they were stretched out…..and when they “shrunk” small. We found a light coloured worm to look for five beating hearts. We looked for the thick band around the worm called the clitellum and located the worm’s head.
Light or Dark?
- One very simple experiment that we did with the worms was to determine if they preferred to be in the light or in the dark. The kids each made a hypothesis, and then we covered one side of the dishpan with layers of thick paper and held a flashlight on the other side. (It is not clear in the photo, but there was a definite darker shadow under the paper.) When the flashlight was held above the worms, it was clear that they were trying to move away. Once we had gathered enough observations to make a conclusion, we let the worms rest in the cool soil once again.
- Another activity that we did was to examine the movement of the worms underground. We carefully layered sand and soil into our clear jar and placed the worms on top. It is amazing how quickly they disappear under the soil! The kids enjoyed seeing them move under the soil. We left them for a little while and when we returned…the sand and soil were no longer in obvious layers. There were tunnels everywhere! We were able to see all the castings left behind. In just a short time, those hardworking worms did a great job of mixing and aerating the soil.
We kept the worms for a total of two days and then released them into our flower and vegetable gardens. The kids got a few veggie scraps from the kitchen to add to the gardens to feed them! 🙂 To wrap up our investigation, we reviewed our list of questions. I read each question aloud and right away, the kids were able to either answer it or talk about it enough to figure out a reasonable answer. We definitely learned a lot!
This was an investigation that we did last year. My kids remember it fondly and still know lots of information about worms. We’re already waiting for a good rainy day to further investigate these fascinating little creatures!