Academic journal article Science and Children

The Wonderful World of Worms: A Family-Friendly Activity Uses Worms to Help Young Students Investigate Cause and Effect

Academic journal article Science and Children

The Wonderful World of Worms: A Family-Friendly Activity Uses Worms to Help Young Students Investigate Cause and Effect

Article excerpt

Kindergarteners have plenty of opportunities to discover and investigate cause and effect in their own lives and in all subject areas. If it rains, they may not be able to go outside for recess. If they pump harder on the swing, the swing will go faster and higher. In science, they may investigate pushes and pulls; discover how exposure to sunlight leads to warming; or observe classroom fish swimming to the side of their tank whenever a student comes near. Students will examine the crosscutting concept of cause and effect throughout their academic careers and everyday life.

This article describes an activity the authors conducted with kindergarteners and their families as part of a pilot study on family learning opportunities in STEM. We are all currently graduate professors of education but have diverse experience as classroom teachers and educational consultants. We have conducted this activity many times in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, and decided to use it as a basis for this pilot study on family learning. In our pilot, we worked with two groups of families--one primarily English-speaking and one group predominantly Spanish-speaking--to investigate cause and effect with live earthworms. Young children are often eager to handle worms. This 5E lesson introduces students to the wonderful world of wiggly worms and gives them a concrete experience observing cause and effect.

Appendix G of the Next Generation Science Standards states that for the crosscutting concept of cause and effect, "In grades K--2, students learn that events have causes that generate observable patterns" (NGSS Lead States 2013, Appendix G, p. 83). Our goal was for students to examine the effects of stimuli on earthworms and to see patterns of the animals' responses as they related to the real world. By the end of the activity, we wanted students to be able to (1) give examples of stimuli and response of both the worms and other organisms, (2) determine the sense organs that worms have and cite evidence to support their argument, and (3) relate the experiment to the worms' natural environment. This activity was conducted in this form with children in kindergarten, but it can be adapted for students through third grade by making the data collection more formal and making the ELA component more robust. The materials necessary for this activity are:

* Live earthworms

* Pie tins or other pans to place the worms in while observing

* Potting soil

* Cornmeal

* Sweet liquid (e.g., juice)

* Sour liquid (e.g., vinegar)

* Cotton swabs

* Black construction paper

* Paper cups for providing small amounts of the liquids to groups

* Paper towels

* Water

This lesson was one activity within a pilot study. We held two "dinner meetings," two weeks apart, in which we engaged the families in two science activities and gave them "homework" in between (see "Evaluate"). In addition to learning goals for students, an objective of this work was to demonstrate to parents how easy it can be to provide rich learning opportunities in science using their homes and communities. We separated the two groups in order to allow the children and parents to work together using their home language. In this way parents and children in both groups were fully engaged in the activities. Spanish-speaking parents, for example, were able to participate with their children, asking questions, making suggestions, and using the targeted science vocabulary. Parents were asked to encourage science learning at home with this same approach using the language spoken at home. Our goal was not that children conduct science activities in English; rather, our goal was to promote learning at home through authentic experiences facilitated by a parent.

Engage

We began the lesson by catching students and parents off guard. Without them noticing, we dropped a large plastic bin, resulting in a pretty forceful bang sound. …

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