Inquiry with Earthworms

Article excerpt

Byline: Bobby Jeanpierre and Joanne Babyak

As an introduction to inquiry using earthworms, students are given a prompt to address in their science journals: "What is it like to be an earthworm?" After reflecting independently, students share their knowledge of earthworms during a class discussion. Next, they research information on earthworms with books and the Internet (see Resources) Students, working in groups of three or four, explore how earthworms eat, their habitat, their needs, and the ways they benefit humans.

Once students have sufficient information about various aspects of the earthworm's life, anatomy, and history, they are knowledgeable enough to think of questions they want to investigate. After researching, there is a group discussion of possible research questions, then the teacher rotates through each group to approve the experimental design and problem. Many student questions center on earthworm feeding and habitat variations. Examples of research questions students asked include, "Which soil type do earthworms prefer?" and "And do earthworms prefer freshly picked leaves or very dry leaves?"

Next, students are allowed to self-select groups based on the similarity of their research questions. Each group is then provided with the Inquiry With the Earthworm worksheet, which serves as both an assessment tool and a guide to direct students' investigations (see Activity Sheet, below).

Inquiry with the earthworm


Based on your prior research, formulate a testable hypothesis with your group members.

Create and document your plan for researching your hypothesis. (Include variables and controls; make sure experiment can be replicated.)

Carry out your experiment plan and collect data accordingly. Include at least five pictures of earthworms in the testing phase over the two-week period.

Organize your data into pie graphs, bar graphs, scatter plots, and/or line graphs and provide reasons for your display method.

Create a conclusion based on the RERUN method: R= Recall-Briefly describe what you did E= Explain-Explain the purpose R= Results-State the results U= Uncertainty-Describe the uncertainties and errors that exist N= New-Write two new things you learned.

Present your results to the class.

The earthworms can be purchased at a bait shop for approximately $3 per dozen. Each group will need about three worms. Depending on the experiment, some earthworms may be used again in other classes. An additional dozen earthworms or so should be purchased because some will die in the process. The worms should be kept in the same soil container in which they were purchased. They should remain alive for 8 to10 days in these containers. Dead worms can be wrapped in paper towels and disposed of in the trash. …