Why You and Your Children should Care About Earthworms
An earthworm lesson plan designed to foster a sense of wonder in you and your children or students for earthworms. Learn the concept of "soil health," agricultural and gardening practices that encourage earthworm presence, why children should care about earthworms, and the role of earthworms on soil health. Happy dirt time!
TIME: 1.5 hours
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 6 - 13
ENVIRONMENT: Agricultural area (garden or farm field).
- digging knives
- writing instruments
By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:
- Observe earthworms in a healthy soil.
- Explain the term “soil health.”
- List and explain the role of earth worms on soil health.
- Explain agricultural practices that encourage and discourage the presence of earthworms.
- Walk with students to a previously decided on agricultural area (garden or farm field). When approaching the area, begin to walk on your tiptoes (exaggerate it) and ask the students to do the same. Explain that there are very important creatures that we do not want to hurt.
- Explain that these creatures are earthworms. Ask students for their first thoughts on hearing the word “earthworm.” Do they think gardens or fishing hooks? Slimy and gross, incredibly interesting, or gross and interesting?
- Read aloud the following quote:
“…long before he [the plough] existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” - Charles Darwin (1881)
Ask students if they have any idea as to why Darwin considered these “lowly organized creatures” as significant. Share that this quote is from the last page of his book The Formation of Vegetable Mold through the Action of Earthworms (1881). His last big study was on earthworms and he spent 15 years on it. Thus, earthworms are incredibly significant. But why?
- Ask students this question: why might earthworms be so incredibly important? Listen in their answers for things revolving around the idea of soil health. Run with any answers that explicitly cite soil health or explain earthworms as natural “tillers” of the soil.
- Pass out the digging knives to students and instruct them to find an earthworm. When they find one, ask them to observe it. Have them note any significant observations in their notebooks. Suggest that they look for the following: what is the earthworm doing? If it is eating, what is it eating? Is it burrowing up and down or horizontal to the soil? After about 15 minutes, gather the group. Ask students to share any observation notes. Then look for a pile of earthworm castings and ask students if they know what it is. Tell them this is one of the major contributions of the earthworms to the soil. Their castings, or “poop” is actually incredibly good soil. The earthworms eat organic matter and deposit these castings throughout to soil. What a contribution!
- Ask the students what their thoughts are on earthworms. Ask for someone to explain the concept of soil quality and it relevance to people. Share that, if it wasn’t for earthworms, the plow would be a "necessary evil." People should allow nature to do as much of the work as possible. Thank the students for their time and share that they now have reason to walk a bit more lightly on the soil.
Evaluate students during their time in the field. Observe how they spend their time allotted for observing earthworms. How intrigued or interested to they appear? Are they getting excited or fighting desires to lie down and go to sleep? Overall, do the students seem genuinely interested to learn about earthworms? In the classroom, notice their attention levels. How connected to the ideas presented do they seem? Are they asking questions or “zoning out?” From their contributions to the discussion, do they seem to understand the concept of soil quality?
The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms by Charles Darwin (opens in new tab)