Supplies: A few earthworms (dug up from the garden or bought at a bait shop), water
Activity: Ask your students what they already know about these amazing creatures. If they need help getting started, ask where earthworms live (underground, in soil). When is the easiest time to see them (after it rains, they often come to the surface)? Explain that earthworms need to stay moist, which is one reason why they live in dirt. But it’s easy to tunnel in wet dirt and stay moist aboveground after it rains, which is one reason we see them then.
Bring some earthworms into circle time. Have students gently run wet fingers softly down a worm’s sides. Ask what it feels like. The children should discover stiff bristles called setae (SEE-tay). Then put the worm on a piece of dry paper. Have the students listen carefully to the setae scratching as the worm moves. Ask students how the earthworm crawls. (It uses muscles to shorten its body and then lengthen it.) What do the setae do? (They help the worm grab on and move through soil.)
Supplies: Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, paper cups big enough for children to put their fist in, Easter grass, flower shapes cut from colored paper, glue
Activity: Read Diary of a Worm to your students. Then help them make their own worm puppets by poking a hole in the bottom of their cups big enough for a finger to pop through. Have them decorate the bottom of their puppets by gluing grass and flowers onto the inverted cups. As soon as they’re dry, the puppets are ready to be the home for their worm (finger) to pop through.
Follow-Up: Let Diary of a Worm provide inspiration for your students to make up earthworm stories to share with the group.
Supplies: 1-gallon glass jar, loose garden (not potting) soil, sand, water, trowel, leaves, lettuce, brown paper bag big enough to fit over the jar, earthworms (gathered with your students or bought from a bait shop), clean plastic container (if digging up your own worms)
Preparation: You may want to prepare the worm hotel ahead of time. Loosely layer soil and sand in the jar until it is three-quarters full. Moisten the soil mixture lightly. If you have an easy place to gather earthworms with your students, moisten that spot of the garden ahead of time.
Activity: Either simply produce the earthworms or take your students to the prepared garden spot. Dig up four to six earthworms and put them in the plastic container with a little soil. Let your students put the earthworms in the jar and add a few dead leaves and pieces of lettuce over them. Set the paper bag over the jar to block light out, but still let air in. Put the jar in a warm spot, from 55° to 75° F. Maintain a damp hotel by spraying the inside of the jar just a little with a plant mister or flicking water drops off your fingers when needed. Every few days, remove any rotting food and add new lettuce, potato peelings or leaves.
Follow-Up: After a few days, remove the bag. Do you see any tunnels? Are earthworms crawling up or down the jar? How can your students tell which end is which? (A worm’s mouth opens as it moves.) How have the layers of sand and soil changed? Is the food gone? Can your child guess why gardeners love earthworms? (Worm tunnels help introduce air and water into the soil. They also mix the soil up. Earthworms enrich dirt by breaking down leaves and grass.) Eventually, enrich the soil in your garden by letting the earthworms go.
Some earthworms have five hearts. No earthworms have lungs. They breathe by taking air in through their skin.