Mrs. Cordell’s Class has “Got Worms!”
Letty and I have been just as busy as every else lately getting our gardens started. We hope your gardens are off to a good start like ours. Letty is deploying Vermicompost on her tomatoes and she reports her plants are healthy with thick stems and good leaf color!
A little while back I got an E-Mail from Lara Cordell, a teacher in Ohio, who had some basic questions about her worm bin. I found out that her worm bin was in her classroom!
I asked Lara if she would expand on how she was incorporating red worms in her lesson plans – WOW was I pleasantly surprised by her response. What follows is an email Q & A session I had with Lara (slightly modified for this blog post), along with some pictures she sent me.
MARK – Can you tell a little about what you are doing?
LARA – I am doing a write up of the project for my Board of Education so that they can see hands on science in the classroom and part of my write up was having the students compare plant growth between soil types and how this experiment (with vermicomposting) will add to our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle unit. Plant growth lesson will be an experiment that I will conduct in the fall of next year.
MARK – Please tell our readers about your school and what made you decide to put worms in you classroom?
LARA – I teach Kindergarten at Northwood Elementary in Marysville, Ohio. Our building houses grades K-4 and has about 515 students in all. I am also the Science Department Chair for our building. With this job I try very hard to get ideas and materials into the hands of classroom teachers to help make science fun and exciting for our students. Currently my students are learning about life cycles. We have discussed butterflies, frogs, and plants. As we started talking about butterflies I ordered caterpillars for us to observe in the classroom. We have watched them change and grow and we will be releasing them this week.
At about the same time we started talking about frogs and their life cycle. Because I had set a precedence with the butterflies, my class had asked me to get tadpoles! Since I could not say no to their eager faces and their enthusiasm for learning I waded into the pond nearby and caught tadpoles for us to observe. About a week before Earth Day it was time for us to begin our lesson on plants and observe the life cycle of a plant. During our discussion of plant we read several books and discussed the different creatures that help plants grow strong and produce more. We talked about bees, butterflies, lady bugs, and of course WORMS!
We set up a Root-View Garden in our window so that we could plant seeds and sneak a peek into what happens underground that we don’t normally get to see. We watched the roots form and the sprout push the seed coat up and out of the ground. During this time we continued to learn more about plants and the creatures that help them. My students love checking in on the changes that are happening in the room with and were beginning to give me ideas as to what we could add to our “Kinder-Garden”. One of the students asked if we could watch worms. This request was supported by 24 more eager learners! Luckily I had taken a class through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources several years ago, so I had most of the materials on hand.
MARK – Aren’t you worried about bugs? The smell?
LARA – I am not concerned about bugs. I think they will make for some interesting investigations and observations right along with the worms. We have a book that will allow us to try and identify the different critters that make our bin their home. The smell is not a big concern either, as long at the lid is on and we take proper care of the bin we should be just fine.
MARK – Did the kids think the worms were yucky?
LARA – There were mixed reviews regarding the first impression. I had rolled up noses and kids that wanted to name every one of them! I will say though that all of the kids are very excited about the worms. I have gotten a few emails from parents describing how all of a sudden their children keep running out on rainy days moving worms from the driveway back into the yard!
MARK – How are you keeping some of the kids from daring each other to eat one of the worms?
LARA – Well, we did a lot of discussion and preparation before our little friends arrived. We read several books and we talked a lot about what my expectations were for them as caregivers of the bin and the worms. We discussed proper handling (in this case I would be the only one handling), what would be appropriate for them to bring to feed our bin, and appropriate times for viewing. I tried to encourage a respect for these little creatures and their habitat. I believe that these lessons were successful as no one has attempted to make a meal of them yet!
MARK – What do you hope your students will learn from this?
LARA – I am hoping that my students will learn several lessons from this experience. I would like for them to have a better understanding of how hard the worms work to make our soil rich in nutrients that will feed the plants that provide us with food, shelter, and other basic necessities. We also have a large unit on Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. During that unit we spend a lot of time discussing landfills and the amount of “trash” that is thrown away compared to the amount that should be thrown away. Over the next year I will be adding another component to this lesson to include more discussion about composting. I also would like for my students to see the synergy involved in this cycle. That even a little worm can help a giant oak to grow big and strong. To see that when small pieces are working together that big things, life changing things can happen.
Lara tells me she will keep in touch next school year. I am certainly looking forward to more updates from Lara and her class of “Kinder Gardeners”!
Welcome Little Friends!
“You touch ’em!” “NO you touch ’em!”
“How many worms did you say are going to live in there??”
‘Mark from Kansas’ is an avid vermicomposter from…well…Kansas, and contributing author here at Red Worm Composting. When he is not tending to his OSCR worm bin, Mark also enjoys spending time with his wife Letty (who also doubles as his trusty vermicomposting assistant) and picking petunias (ok, Bentley just made that last bit up).