While digging in my garden today, I came across the World's Best Composters - earthworms, and LOTS of them!
'Though they might not be your favorite, there's sooo much learning to be had for your students from a hands-on experience with earthworms. WAIT- don't stop reading! Trust me on this one!
I've usually transported the worms to school in a shallow disposable (ya think???) plastic container with plenty of slightly damp soil in it and a few small air holes poked in the lid. You'll need a spray bottle of water to keep the worms and soil moist during the day.
This is a perfect lesson for a KWL chart... here's a little one to use on your doc camera, or for individual copies for your students.
You might also want to read a few books that day or even the day before to build up some schema. Here are a few that you might like...
Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Worm , of course, and Wiggling Worms at Work, by Wendy Pfeffer (who visited our school a few years ago!). Another you'll like is Wonderful Worms, by Linda Glasser. (Just an aside: I will never forget the little sweetie who announced to the class, "I wuv dat book - Diarrhea Worm! I got it at my house!" In stunned and stupid disbelief, I asked for a repeat. Yep. That's what she said. And to think we use "Does that make sense?" as a reading prompt with six-year-olds... first grade is a place unto itself.)
Holding a worm is a first for many. There're always a few little guys who need to do a whole lot of watching before they're ready, and, hey, that's okay! Eventually, all but a very few do hold them, and as you'd imagine, there's a whole lot of squealin' goin' on, confidence being built, and memories being made!
Try some simple experiments with flashlights and spray bottles to see how the worms react. Rulers, magnifying glasses, plastic forks or spoons as "holders" for those who don't want to touch, and lots of paper towels are helpful, too. At the end of the day we all troop out outside and put the worms in some loosened soil, timing them to see how long it takes them to completely burrow in, which is not long at all !
We usually write about what we learned (don't we always? :) In addition to that, I like to send home something to keep the conversation going at home. Here's one that I've used that you can click to download.
If you need any further proof of the value of a day like Earthworm Day, take a look at this link from Herbert W. Broda at the Stenhouse site which talks about the subtle message that we send children simply by omission, in this case the omission of teaching about our natural world by actually spebding time in it. Two significant quotes:
"... the assumption (has) been made that utilizing a rich outdoor environment (is) at odds with learning academic concepts" needed for state testing,
"Thankfully an increasing body of research is showing that outdoor learning can be used very successfully to enhance student achievement."
National Environmental Education Week begins on April 15th, culminating on the 22nd with Earth Day. Having an Earthworm Day in your classroom is a great way to make sure that it's more than a pencil-and-paper occasion for your class!
p.s. Looking for more ideas for your Earth Day teaching? Here are 2 great linky parties!
Thanks to Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade...
Also, thanks to Robin at Little Blogfish!