As you know, we have a dedicated science lab time with Shan each Friday morning. But that doesn’t mean that science doesn’t happen at other times of the week as well! Children are natural scientists, and are often making observations, testing their theories, and making sense of our world. It is our job, as educators, to capitalize on their natural curiosity and to take it to the next level.
This morning, being the “no-math” day of the week, we used the time for an extended study of the creatures that live in our room – our compost worms! These children already knew a great deal about worms, simply by being their caregivers. They knew that they eat lots of our food waste, that they poop, and that the poop is called "castings", that they prefer dark and moist conditions.
We began by simply observing our worms using magnifying glasses. We also used a labeled diagram to learn the parts of the worm’s body, and to find them on a real worm. Some of the children wanted to count the body segments to see if it really is true that there are over 100. We used all of our senses (except for taste).
We then made scientific drawings. This is a very important part of the science of biology. All biologists must be able to produce good quality scientific drawings – drawing only what can be seen. It doesn’t matter if you think you are a “bad” artist or lack drawing ability. Drawings not only let a child record an image, but also help them remember the important features of the specimen. Simply looking at pictures isn’t nearly as effective when it comes to remembering and understanding.
Then we did some research by reading two fun-to-read but packed-with-facts books. We learned SO much – how worms breathe, how many hearts they have (5 pairs!), how they move, and so on.
I also reminded the students that we never add citrus fruits to our compost. Citrus fruits contain limonene, a natural chemical that is often added to various pesticides. Knowing that, we attempted a simple experiment that required both water and lemon juice to be applied near the ends of a worm. Would the worm react the same way to both the water and the juice?
We handled the worms very gently, and no worms were hurt. I can imagine, however, that they were quite glad to return to their worm bin.