The Worm Project
By Sarah Wright, Head Teacher
James: I see the ring. Look! It’s going to have babies. It’s going to have eggs. I found a worm that’s about to have babies.
Nika: Worms don’t have babies that are eggs. They are not born in eggs. They are born in tummies like I was born in my mom’s tummy.
One rainy day last November, the children in East PM noticed a huge puddle under the redwood trees by the door. They began talking excitedly, pointing, and asking questions. Armando picked up some worms and announced to the group, “We need to collect them!” Returning to the classroom, the children talked to each other about their own experiences with worms. Our investigation of worms had begun.
In order to investigate, children need opportunities to observe, question, and research. We encouraged the children to formulate and ask their own questions about worms so that they would take some responsibility for their learning and become actively involved in determining what they wanted to find out. Listing their ideas, thoughts, and questions gave us a starting point for the project and encouraged much discussion. Can worms swim? What do they eat? How do they move? Where is the head? Do they have ears? These are just some of the questions that we used to develop the curriculum for the quarter.
After sharing in worm collecting, we had over fifty worms to house and feed and only a large cardboard box in which to keep them temporarily. Finding out how to take care of these worms was a highly motivating experience for both children and teachers. As teachers, it is our responsibility to scaffold the children’s learning by talking to them about what they are experiencing and helping them represent what they are observing. Frequent trips to the school reference library and visits from experts helped the children clarify some of their misconceptions and stimulated their thinking. Sarah Smith, director of the Home Composting Education Program in Santa Clara County, and Joleen Hsu, a volunteer, visited our classroom and set up a worm compost with the children in February. Wilhelm Grotheer, our carpenter, offered his expertise and provided a chance for the children to use their own woodworking skills by building a terrarium. An iMovie captured this event and was played on the classroom computer, allowing the children to revisit the experience with their parents.
The project finale was the exploration of worm movements in the creation of a worm dance. The dance evolved from the children’s own observations of worm movements and extended to an elaborate production: tunnels were constructed out of large boxes and arranged around the roots of a cardboard tree; music was chosen and costumes were made using found materials and copious amounts of tape! Parents were invited to watch as the children performed. Allowing children to represent their experiences actively not only helped them interact effectively with each other but also deepened their understanding and knowledge of their world.