Friday, March 3, 2017

Worm Day!

Okay, so this has been a cra-cra week, but I still want to share about one thing– Worm Day! I'll break it into five points to share on this Five for Friday linky post.

1.  So I had my head on a million things happening this week– kindergarten round-up, which involves prepping a talk and keeping the room neat, etc., assessing for report cards, and the Three Billy Goat Gruff retelling– when SURPRISE! it was Worm Day. Do you know about Worm Day? Well, it's the first day spring-like enough to bring the worms out in droves... swarms... gangs onto the sidewalks. It is usually a wet and balmy day, after a rainy night, and this year was no different, except that it was March first... MARCH first, mind you, not April. Those pesky worms do not bother to text me when their mass exodus from the earth is coming up, so I don't know until I painstakingly tiptoe into school through a worm obstacle course covering the sidewalk. Because this teacher of five year olds simply cannot let worm day pass by and not take advantage of the learning it provides, everything else on the day's agenda got pushed aside.

I knew I made the right decision when the kids came in with nothing but worm talk. We had a brief discussion on the general make up of worms- no bones, very squishy– and how that then dictates how we handle them. And no, no one is going to make anyone pick up or touch a worm, but those of you who want to, can collect some worms in our jar for a couple days of scientific observation. Then we headed out the door gleefully.

So many worms on a balmy March 1

Gently, gently

Here's another one!

Worm tracks

2.  Twenty minutes later we were back inside and I was substituting the planned center, abandoning guided reading, and sitting at a kid table distributing a small tray, wet paper towel, magnifying glass, and worm to each student in the small group. Ah, fifteen minute of observing the worms, keeping them on their paper towel, making the magnifying glasses "work," and terrific conversation– scientific and otherwise.

Carefully looking

Scientists at work

It doesn't seem like they move very fast,
but this one somehow slipped by in stealth mode!

The first time the kids have a worm all to themselves you really need to be ready to simply follow their leads. They are completely engaged, even the kids who proclaim they don't like worms. We observed how they moved, we marveled at how fast they could be, and we found a safe way of flopping the worms back on the paper towel when they strayed off. We talked about all the colors in a worm- quite a few colors considering these are just "boring" old earthworms. And of course we had a lot of discussion on the purpose of worms in the world.  Mostly I wrote down their questions- what do they eat, where are their babies, why are they wet and slimy, why did they come out today, and is that poop? Their questions then guide our fact gathering later in the day as we turn into bookworms immersed in books about worms.

3.  The next day we drew the worms using all the crayon colors we had listed the day before. We watched a couple of kid videos that explained a lot about worms, and we wrote some of the facts we learned about them.

4.  Then on our way to lunch recess we stopped by the school garden with its raised beds and filled up a deep tray with some soil. I told the kids that I would take the soil back to the classroom to warm up a bit– the ground and beds were now covered with snow– this is Michigan after all with daily change of seasons! When the kids got back from lunch we put all of our worms on top of the soil and watched. The worms did not disappoint. It did not take long for all of them to disappear into the soil... well, all but the four that hadn't survived the adventure (actually I think they had already been smushed on the sidewalk before the kids brought them in.) The dead comrades provided further learning, however, as we discussed how worms are even useful after they die.

We went back out to the garden and put the soil and worms back in the bed, tucking them in with extra soil– poor things. I really think that the warm spell of the last week, which ended abruptly, might do more harm to things in nature than good, even as it was nice to abandon snow pants and heavy jackets for a few days. We are right back to winter, but we have a LOT more knowledge about worms. I considered the worm mini-unit an even greater success when I overheard one student, the one who had shrieked at the first worm in the jar, say, "They are kinda cute."

5.  Teacher tips– having done this many years now, I suggest you keep the worms for no more than one or two days. Some worm death might be inevitable, if for no other reason than the worms get stepped on on the sidewalk. It is best to up the chances of survival through their observation period and keep them for only a short time. Or you can set up a proper worm habitat, but unless you are using them for composting, they usually keep well out of sighte way down in the dirt.

I suggest you collect and keep the worms in a jar with just a little bit of the mud found at their collection site. I don't know that they eat overnight, but there is some food in there for them if they get hungry. Then keep a lot of very damp, crumpled paper towel in the jar so they can bury themselves in the creases and folds. This allows them moisture and a place to hide. Paper towel allows the kids to watch the worms more than if you just fill the jar with dirt, where the worms can't be seen. It also will be very obvious in the morning that the worms pooped on the paper towel. Worm poop, or castings, is a big way that worms help us and is a valuable part of the learning, as you'll find when you do some factual reading with the kids. Cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap that has very tiny holes in the top– I use a paperclip wire to punch the holes in. We have never had a worm escape from the jar, but the holes need to be very small, and the plastic wrap basically keeps the paper towel from drying out. Also a tray that is a couple inches deep is ideal for filing with soil so you can watch the worms burrow out of sight.

Hope this inspires you to be ready for your impromptu worm day. Taking little bends in the road to incorporate teachable moments and the children's interest is what teaching is all about in my opinion. And it is an awful lot of fun for all involved!

Swing on back to Five for Friday! Thanks, Kasey.

 Thanks for stopping by! And don't forget to Pin so you don't forget!


  1. Love this, Kathleen!! What a fantastic example of phenomena and by observing it, it can help children with their investigation and questioning skills!! I will definitely save this for future reference!!

    1. Thanks, Linda. Hope your kiddos have fun with it, too! See you around. Kathleen

  2. I love this. This is learning. Who wouldn't want to see children so thoroughly engaged and having such meaningful conversations? I always enjoy your posts!

    1. Really what science is all about. Makes me love teaching! See you later. Kathleen

  3. Love this idea... I'm sure the kids went crazy! How fun for them to explore and observe their surroundings!!

    1. They couldn't have gotten much more engaged, to be sure. Thanks for stopping. Kathleen

  4. It looks like your kids had a great experience and appreciate nature around them. Thanks for sharing.
    Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

  5. Thanks, Beti. I know you know about this stuff! See you another day. Kathleen


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