Worms

OUTSIDE TEACHING UNIT

Teacher’s Name: Guyla Woodbrey

Class Grade Level(s) & School: Kindergarten, Saccarappa School

Class Subject: Language Arts and Math

Number of Students in the class:  19

Lesson/Project Name: Worms

A.  Pre-Reflection

1. What are your own teaching goals going into this?

1.   Students will understand that some waste is organic (compostable) or inorganic (not   compostable).

2.   Students will understand that worms help nature to recycle.

3.   Students will understand that composting is a way to recycle and  create new soil.

4.   Students will understand the characteristics, habitat and functions of worms.

2.  What are your goals for students going into this?

a.  Process/skill goals

I would like the children to learn that it is important to reduce the amount of waste and  recycle.   This unit will show the children how they can help to reduce the amount of waste going into our landfills.   They will learn about the natural cycle of soil and worms.  They can learn that they can make a difference!

b.  Subject/content goals

Language Arts/Balance Literacy:  Shared reading, read alouds, Writer’s Workshop, and interactive and non-fiction writing

Math:  Counting, sorting, graphing and measuring

B.  The Plan:

1.  Materials

Day 1 and 2: Chart paper and marker

2.  The Class/Project

Day 1

a.  Prep before going outside: (15 minutes)

Interactive writing: Students will write what they know about worms

Day 2

a.  Prep before going outside: (15 minutes)

1.  Interactive writing:  Students will write what they want to learn about worms

2.  Shared Reading:  Using a chart, students will read/sing Take Me Out To The Compost. They will be given a copy of the song to add to their Poetry and Song Folder.  This folder is used for both quiet and  buddy reading.

Take Me  Out  To  The  Compost

Take me  out  to  the  compost

Take me  out to the pile.

Add some soil and  a  few  good  worms

I don’t care  if  I’m  turned and  I’m  churned

‘Cause it’s  root,  root,  root,  for  the   microbes;

If  they  don’t  live  it’s  a  shame.

For in two,  four,  six  weeks

I’m out in  the  old  garden.

Written by:  Pam Ahearn

Day 3

1.  Materials

Log Hotel, Diary Of A Worm, trowels, container, hand lens, clipboards, observation sheets, chart paper,  graph paper/chart, markers and Parents’ letter (below)

Dear Families,

Your child will be bringing home a “worm hotel” or vermi composter.  Your child will be able observe and learn about the natural cycle of soil and worms.  Students will also learn how they can reduce their own input into the waste stream.  Their “worm hotel” will be atennis can filled with bedding and a few worms.  The bedding consists of moistened shredded newspaper and a couple of vegetable scraps.

Worms eat garbage; more accurately, worms eat natural waste, and create an incredibly nutrient-rich soil to use in our gardens.  Their needs are simple – air, darkness, warmth, a little water, and waste material (vegetable and kitchen scraps).

Your children will need to place their vermi composter in a safe place that isn’t too cold or too hot and is out of direct sunlight.  After a few days, have your child check on the worms and make sure everything is working out well.

There are some guidelines which explain what you can put into a worm bin. Stick with coffee grounds, vegetable peels, egg shells, and raw fruit (avoiding banana and orange peels).  Stay away from cooked meat and cooked food, oils, dairy products and processed food.  When feeding the worms, bury the food into the bedding.  The smaller the pieces of food the faster the worms can produce soil.

If for any reason, you do not want your child to bring home a “worm hotel” or if you have any questions, please contact your child’s teacher.

Sincerely,

2.  Prep before going outside: (60 minutes)

  • Morning read-aloud:  Teacher will read and students will have a discussion of the book Log Hotel ( Anne Schreiber)
  • Shared Reading:  Students will read or sing Take Me Out To The Compost
  • Interactive writing:  Students will make  a list of creatures that help to recycle the log into soil.
  • Afternoon read-aloud:  Teacher will read and student will have a discussion of the book The Diary Of A Worm (Diane Cronin)  (see Optional Activities at end)
  • The class will review the outside classroom/garden rules
  • Teacher will introduce outside activity, What Is In Our Soil?

b. Outside: (30 minutes)

The students will work in teams of 2 or 3 students.

Students will collect soil samples and place them on a tray/plastic jar/paper plate.  Using a hand lens, they will observe the components of their soil samples.

Children will record their observations.  At the kindergarten level this could include drawings, labeling and /or written sentences.  Their observations should include all the living things found in the soil.

c.      Classroom follow-up: (30 minutes)

The class will share their observations.

In a large group students will list or make a diagram of the things found in the soil.    For math, they will create a class graph of the living things they, found in the soil.   Then they will count the number of worms or living thing found in the soil

Day 4

1.  Materials

Garden trowels, hand lens, clipboards, pencils, yard sticks, rulers, yarn/string, stapler and observation sheets.

2. Prep before going outside: (40 minutes)

Shared Reading:  Students will read or sing Take Me Out To The Compost

Interactive Writing:  Students will write a definition for organic and inorganic.

Each child will need a plant marker with their name written on it and their snack garbage.

The class will review their outside classroom/garden rules.

Introduce the outside assignment, Buried Treasure.

b.  Outside: (20 minutes)

Students will use yard sticks, rulers and a marker to mark off 1 foot sections on the raised bed.

Then, they will use a stapler and yarn/string to make a 1 foot by 1 foot grid.

Each child will bury one piece of  snack garbage in a square marked with their name marker.

c.  Classroom follow-up: (20 minutes)

Interactive writing: Students will write their predictions of what might happen to the buried treasure/snack garbage.

Writer’s Workshop:  Students will write about their buried treasure/snack garbage.

Day 5

1.  Materials

Clipboard, observation sheets, pencils, hand lens, tennis can (one for each child), duct tape, drill with 1/16 bit or pointed scissors, newsprint, spray bottle with water, brown and green matter, and worms.

Teacher prep(60 minutes) Teacher will cover tennis can openings with duct tape and drill small holes (1/16 inch) into the cover of the tennis cans.  The duct tape will prevent cuts from the sharp edges.

2.  Prep before going outside: (30 minutes)

Shared Reading:  Students will sing or read Take Me Out To The Compost

Students will rip newsprint into small pieces ( ½  inch strips) and spray it with water until it makes a clump. Too much water will kill the worms!

Students will use silver sharpie markers to write their names on a tennis can lid.

The Class will review their outside/garden rules.

Teacher will introduce their outside assignments, observations of their Buried Treasure and making a vermi composter/worm hotel

b. Outside: (40 minutes)

Make a vermi composter

Students will place pea stones in the bottom of their tennis can.  These stones will act as drainage and prevent students from drowning their worms.   Then they will place ¼ cup of wet newsprint into the tennis can.  Next students will add both green and brown matter.   Now it is time to add the worms.  Each child will count out ten worms and add them to their vermi composter.  End by having them place a cover with drilled holes onto their composter.

When finished the children, can make observations of their decomposing snack garbage

Gather supplies, pick up the outside classroom and return to inside classroom.

c.  Classroom follow-up: (30 minutes)

Students will complete their  worm adoption papers.

Then using tape, attach adoption papers to their tennis can/worm hotel.  Do not tape directly to can—paper to paper.  This will allow the children to slide of f the adoption papers and  observe their worms.

Allow time for the children to observe their worms.  Their worm hotels will stay at school.

Teacher will send home a copy of the parent letter about the worm hotels (see below).

Dear Families,

We learned so much about worms today!  Some of the highlights which will help the worms to stay healthy and happy are:

What to feed worms: fruit and vegetable scraps that are chopped up very small, I have a blender in the classroom that we mash up our composting particles.

What not to feed worms: meat, milk products, hot things or any citrus

When the children feed their worms they need to add a little well-chopped food at a time, if they add too much it isn’t bad for the worms but the container will start to smell as the food can’t be eaten fast enough.  The worm containers should not smell!  After feeding their worms the children should shred up newspapers in one inch strips and add this and some water on top of the food.  The worms should be fed every 5 days.  If there is food left in the container that the worms have not eaten, take it out.

The worms like moist and cool homes.  These are special worms for eating garbage, we should not add other worms into our condos.  The worms will not be able to live in a garden, there are not enough nutrients in there for them to survive.  If the worm condo is too difficult to maintain at home send it back into school and your child can care for them here. The worms will make soil from the food and newspapers they eat in about 90 days.

The worms do not like light so they should be given plenty of darkness and they don’t like to be handled too much, this will make the worms uncomfortable and they could die.  Some people think worms are dirty but they actually eat lots of bacteria which helps us and the worm castings (manure) have antibiotics in them which he thinks might be the reason why most worm farmers are very healthy!

Sincerely,

Day 7

1.  Materials

Clipboards, observation sheets, pencil and hand lens

2. Prep before going outside: (20 minutes)

Before snack, students will sort and graph their snack into organic or inorganic groups.   This activity should include a discussion on why something is organic or inorganic

The class will review their outside classroom/garden rules

Teacher will introduce the assignment ,  final observation of snack garbage

b. Outside: (15 minutes)

Students will make a final observation of their buried treasure/ snack  garbage.

Students will discuss their observations.   This should include the following questions:

What does it mean if something is decomposing?

Why is some of the buried treasure decomposing?

What should stay in the garden?

What (and why) do we want to place in the dumpster/trash can?

By composting who are we helping?

What are other ways we can help to recycle?

Students will remove the snack trash that might harm the garden.

c.      Classroom follow-up: (60 minutes)

Each child will be given time to observe their worm hotel.   They can take out a worm and look at it with a hand lens.  Then, they will return the worm to their hotel, place their lids on cans and return them to a safe classroom space.   Students will share their observations.  Some of the discussion questions could include :

Do worms prefer darkness or light?

Do worms like it wet or dry?

After a rain storm why do we find worms on the ground?

How can you help the worms you find?

Is their a top and a bottom to a worm?

Is their a front or a back to a worm?

Students will re-visit the interactive chart where they made predictions of what might happen to   the buried treasure/ snack garbage.

Writer’s Workshop: Students will write about what happened to their and/or peer’s  buried treasure/snack garbage.

Today, Students can take home their worm hotels or leave them in the classroom to use to compost their organic snack garbage.  Some parents may choose not to allow their child to bring home a worm hotel.  If this happens, their child will still have the opportunity to compost.

The class will review how to care for their worms.

Day 8 and beyond!

1.  Materials Plastic tubs with lids, bricks, drill with 1/16 and ¼ inch bits, green and brown matter, sprayer with water, newsprint, and worms

Teacher Prep:  Prepare plastic bins for a vermi compost bin for the classroom.  Follow the direction for making a worm bin at whatcom@wsu.edu <whatcom@wsu.edu>

a.      Prep before going outside:

The class will review their outside/garden rules

Teacher will introduce the assignment, how to make a classroom worm hotel.

Students will rip newsprint into 1 inch strips and moisten it with water.

b. Outside: (15 minutes)

The class will make a classroom worm hotel or composter.  The instructions for this activity are included with the directions to create a worm bin.

c.      Classroom follow-up:

Math:  A  new job will be added to the job chart.   Wearing plastic gloves, a child will collect snack garbage and if needed cut it into smaller pieces and to feed the worms.  Also,  they will be responsible for stirring and watering the worms.

Writer’s workshop: Students will make a book  about what they learned about worms, buried treasure, organic and inorganic matter and/or worm composting.

C.     Reflection:

Most children will enjoy the activities in this unit.   There will be some children who may not want to touch worms, soil or their snack garbage.   For those children there will be gloves, craft sticks, tweezers, tongs, and peer or adult helpers.   To have a better understanding of what the teacher wants a child to learn, the child may need real life experiences.  This unit will teach them another way to recycle some of their food waste and how new soil is created.

Teaching outside should not be a problem.   We have established class rules for the garden.  During an interactive writing lesson, the children created Garden Rules.  These rules are extensions of their school rules.   We discussed what should happen to a student who chooses not to follow the rules.  The students thought that if a child does not follow the rules, he or she will have to sit in the office.  If the students are allowed to create their rules, they will have a better understanding and ownership of what is expected.

Sources:

Shelburne Farm, Project Season

Take Me Out To The Compost, Pam Ahearn

Scholastic Teacher, Dr. Susan Shafer

whatcom@wsu.edu <whatcom@wsu.edu>

Worms: Natures Recycler’s, Kristin Simon, Solid Waste Planner

Worm Hotel Care Letter, Wendy Gaulrapp

As excerpted from whatcom@wsu.edu <whatcom@wsu.edu>

Cheap and Easy Worm Bin

Composting with redworms is great for apartment dwellers who don’t have yard space, or for those who don’t want to hike to a backyard compost bin with their food scraps. Some kids like to keep worms for pets! By letting worms eat your food waste, you’ll end up with one of the best soil amendments available—worm castings. This is the cheapest and easiest to manage worm bin system that I’ve seen:

Materials Needed to Make an Easy Harvester Worm Bin:

• Two 8-10 gallon plastic storage boxes (dark, not see through!) as shown in pictures Cost: about $5 each

• Drill (with 1/4″ and 1/16″ bits) for making drainage & ventilation holes

• Newspaper

• About one pound of redworms

Step 1 Drill about twenty evenly spaced 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of each bin. These holes will provide drainage and allow the worms to crawl into the second bin when you are ready to harvest the castings.

Step 2

Drill ventilation holes about 1 – 1 ½ inches apart on each side of the bin

near the top edge using the 1/16 inch bit. Also drill about 30 small holes in the top of one of the lids.

Step 3

Prepare bedding for the worms by shredding Newspaper into 1 inch strips. Worms need bedding that is moist but not soggy. Moisten the newspaper by soaking it in water and then squeezing out the excess water. Cover the bottom of the bin with 3-4 inches of moist newspaper, fluffed up. If you have any old leaves or leaf litter, that can be added also. Throw in a handful of dirt for “grit” to help the worms digest their food.

Step 4

Add your worms to the bedding. One way to gather redworms, is to put out a large piece of wet cardboard on your lawn or garden at night. The redworms live in the top 3 inches of organic material, and like to come up and feast on the wet cardboard! Lift up cardboard to gather the redworms. Or, if you wish to purchase worms, the Cooperative Extension office can give you names of suppliers in Whatcom County. An earthworm can consume about 1/2 of its weight each day. For example, if your food waste averages 1/2 lb. per day, you will need 1 lb. of worms or a 2:1 ratio. There are roughly 500 worms in one pound. If you start out with less than one pound, don’t worry they multiply very quickly. Just adjust the amount that you feed them for your worm population.

Step 5

Cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the bedding, and get it wet. Then cover the bedding with the cardboard. (Worms love cardboard, and it breaks down within months.)

Step 6

Place your bin in a well-ventilated area such as a laundry room, garage, balcony, under the kitchen sink, or outside in the shade. Place the bin on top of blocks or bricks or upside down plastic containers to allow for drainage. You can use the lid of the second bin as a tray to catch any moisture that may drain from the bin. This “worm tea” is a great liquid fertilizer.

Step 7

Feed your worms slowly at first. As the worms multiply, you can begin to add more food. Gently bury the food in a different section of the bin each week, under the cardboard. The worms will follow the food scraps around the bin. Burying the food scraps will help to keep fruit flies away.

What do worms like to eat? Feed your worms a vegetarian diet. Most things that would normally go down the garbage disposal can go into your worm bin (see the list below). You will notice that some foods will be eaten faster than others. Worms have their preferences just like us.

Feeding your worms:

Worms LOVE

Breads & Grains
Cereal
Coffee grounds & filter
Fruits
Tea bags
Vegetables

Worms HATE

Dairy Products

Fats

Meat
Feces
Oils

When the first bin is full and there are no recognizable food scraps, place new bedding material in the second bin and place that bin directly on the compost surface of the first bin. Bury your food scraps to the bedding of the second bin. In one to two months, most of the worms will have moved to the second bin in search of food. Now the first bin will contain (almost) worm free vermicompost. (You can gently lift out any worms that might remain, and place them in the new bin, or put them into your garden!)

Check out Composting with Redworms for lots more information about caring for worms. If you want to use your carpentry skills, you can view plans for a wooden worm bin.

Whatcom County Agriculture Page | Whatcom County Home Page | Whatcom County Home Composting Page

Optional Activities

As excerpted from Scholastic Teacher Web Site, Dr. Susan Shafer, Based on Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin

About the Book

Recorded from March 20th to August 1st, this is the diary of a worm with a busy life. If he is not trying to teach Spider how to dig (no luck there), he is doing the hokey pokey at a school dance (a partial success). Often attired in a distinctive red baseball cap, this little brown worm has endearing adventures at home, at school, and on the playground.

Set the Stage
Get students ready to read by showing the cover and talking about the title and pictures.

•  What kind of animal is holding the pencil?   What is the worm doing?

•  The worm in the story keeps a diary.   What is a diary?    Have you, or anyone you know, kept one?    What kinds of things (dates, thoughts, feelings, pictures) are written or drawn in a diary? Why do you think people keep diaries?

•  What do you know about real worms?

Review
After students have enjoyed the book, lead a lively discussion with these questions:

•  Which page(s) made you laugh?   Why?

•  What do you notice about the illustrations on the inside front and back covers?   Why do you think the illustrations are in frames, with tape on the corners, and with captions under each?

•  Why are the illustrations important to the book?

•  What kind of research do you think the author and illustrator did to create this book?

Student Activity
This reproducible will help children check their understanding of the sequence of events from the story.

Related Activities
To extend students’ enjoyment of the book, try these:

  • Curtain Going Up: Have students use brown paper bags and crayons to create puppets of the worm and other characters in the story. (Have children hold the bag with the opening at the bottom. Use the flap on the bag for the mouth. Children insert their hands into the bag, opening and closing the flap as the character talks.) Ask students to put on a show about the life of the worm in the story.
  • Dear Diary: As a group, write some diary entries by an animal other than a worm, such as a bee or a bird. Include a date and an illustration for each page. If you like, create a Big Book called Diary of a ______ and place it in the class library.

• Act It Out: Worms crawl, but how do other animals get around? Play a pantomime game: Create a stack of cards, each card showing an animal in motion (bird flying, snake crawling), along with the name of the animal. Have a student select a card and act out for the class the animal on the go. Have students in class identify the animal. The child who correctly identifies the animal gets to act out the next one.

• Book Report Card: Talk about the worm’s report card (which is illustrated on the inside front cover of the book). Then create a report card for Diary of a Worm, giving it letter grades for Story, Illustrations, and other categories students suggest.

• Watch Them Go!: Order real worms from an approved educational supply company. Keep a class journal of observations: size, color, means of locomotion, diet, and behavior. Later, through research, find out about worms’ natural habitat. Talk about the ways in which worms help the earth. Record the information on a chart.

• Animal Mural: As a class, create a mural of animal life in your school neighborhood. Using a large sheet of butcher-block paper taped to a wall, divided into three horizontal sections: above ground, on the ground, below the ground. Discuss which animals live or work in each area. Then ask volunteers to use crayons and markers to illustrate the animals and other things in nature.

• We Want More!: Do students like books by Doreen Cronin? If so, try: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and Giggle, Giggle, Quack.

Lesson Developed by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods. The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults, Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.

Reproducibles:

• Then What Happened? Student Activity Sheet

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