The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 15, 2014

Science of worms: Laughs, squirms during hands-on lesson

By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News

— DANVILLE — Armed with magnifying glasses, Danville Primary School first-graders became scientists to study worms Thursday.

Some were eager to touch the earthworms while others were hesitant.

One parent, who was among parents helping out, donned gloves so she wouldn’t have to touch them.

Teacher June Heeter first told them to gently pick up a worm from soil on a tray in the center of their table.

The students recorded their observations with each experiment of the approximately 40 worms.

Blake Andres, 7, and Brycen Hays, 6, found their worms curled into balls and trying to get away.

Phoenix Zinszer, 6, didn’t want to touch the creature.

The 19 children also had to identify the parts of the worms and to measure the worm’s length.

They experimented with whether a worm would gravitate to a wet paper towel or a dry paper towel and to see how light from a flashlight affected worms.

“They’re creepy, wet, slimy, gross,” said 7-year-old Ava Ross who picked up a worm in preschool but not recently.

She and fellow experimenter Anna Hummel, 7, had a ball watching their worms curl up. “They’re creepy and weird,” Anna said.

Eli Swartz, 7, who held a worm, said he didn’t have any problem with them. He has picked them up before.

Before working with the worms, they learned about them, finding out earthworms have little hairs on their bodies that help them move.

There are 2,700 kinds of earthworms that live all over the world. They eat half their weight in decaying materials daily, Heeter said.

They breathe through their skin because they don’t have lungs. They need to stay moist so oxygen can pass through their skin.

In the wild they live about two years but have been known to live six years, she said.

Lacking eyes, earthworms are sensitive to light and have five hearts, Heeter told the class.

Earthworms are important because their underground tunnels make room for air to help with plant growth, they help decompose leaves and produce a waste product called castings that are a great fertilizer for farmers and gardeners, she said. They are also food for birds and snakes.

Heeter also had some baby night crawlers on hand. Night crawlers are thicker and larger than earthworms and appear at night when dew is on the grass or after a rain on driveways, she said.

After they were done working with the worms she bought, Heeter planned to give them to homes with soil in the area around the school.

Email comments to kblackledge@thedanvillenews.com.