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Worm Wonders


two earthworms per child | plain white paper towels | magnifying lenses

ice cubes | potting soil and large spoon | flashlight

If you know of a spot near the preschool where there are likely to be worms, go out with a trowel and "catch" them with the kids.

If you're the sneaky type, dig them up in your own yard the night before and let them loose in that spot before the kids arrive for the day.

Or you can purchase worms inexpensively at a bait shop.

Slightly moisten a couple of layers of paper towel for each child. If you have been able to scrounge magnifying glasses for each one, that's great, but more likely, they'll have to share. They will enjoy studying the worms as they move around on the paper towel.

Then do three simple experiments:

1. Touch a worm with the ice cube and see how it reacts.

This is especially helpful for children who are afraid to touch a worm with their own finger. Be ready for some screams of excitement!

2. Cover the worms with another piece of paper towel for a few minutes.

Then lift it to expose them to the bright light again, and see what they do.

3. Put a couple of large spoonfuls of potting soil on the paper towel and place the worms on it. Watch them again. Place a paper towel on top of them again. Now the adult can turn out the light in the room and close the shades so that the room is as dark as you can make it. Wait a couple of minutes - then suddenly pull off the paper towel and shine the flashlight right on top of the worms. What do they do?

A word of explanation: worms live underground, where it is dark and damp. They make tunnels through the soil and help bring air and water closer to plants' roots. So they help us a lot in the garden.

Worms don't have any eyes, but they do have two "spots" that are sensitive to light.

Their bodies have sections called "segments," and even though worms aren't very smart, each segment has at least one pair of nerve endings which are very sensitive to cold. Worms can't warm themselves up, so they try to stay out of places that are too cold - like snow. That's why your worm friend probably tried to wriggle away when you touched it with the ice cube.

I mean . . . wouldn't YOU do the same THING?!?!?

Note: it's an old wives' tale that if you cut a worm in half, both halves will live. Not quite so - one half is likely to live, though a stunted, disabled life, and the other half is likely to die. It's true that you can cut the aquatic worm, planaria, in half and both halves will live. But if you try it with earthworms, it's not a good thing. Leave them alone and let them do their worm thing - and THAT will be a good thing!

By Susan Darst Williams • • Preschool 04 © 2010

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