Monday, April 11, 2011

Science For Six-Year-Olds: Giant Earthworms

This is my third post for Mrs. Podolak's first grade class at Lincoln-Hubbard Elementary School. We have been talking about animal behavior with Alex the Genius Parrot and Animals who use tools, but now to kick off the first grader's new science unit, we are going to talk about worms.
When it comes to worms, there is no specimen more impressive than the Giant Gippsland Earthworm. Check out this video to learn more about this massive worm:

Giant Gippsland Earthworms are gross yet fascinating, but these worms are found in Australia. What about the worms in your own backyard? They might not be giants, but the common earthworm are still pretty impressive little animals.

The common earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris,) also called a night crawler, is found throughout North America and Europe. Compared to the Giant Gippsland Earthworm which is usually about 20cm long, the common earthworm is usually just 7-8cm long.

The earthworm has a mouth and a butt (anus). It also has a brain, a nerve cord (the way humans have a spinal cord,) a heart, and a digestive system. So we know what worms look like: they can be big or small, and they are made up of several different parts. But what do earthworms do? Earthworms are experts about dirt. They tunnel through soil making pockets of air and water which are important for plants and the microorganisms that live in the soil.

To help learn more about worms check out these Frequently Asked Questions posed by students just like you! As always, feel free to ask me questions, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Good luck on your new science unit, and learning all about earthworms!


  1. Very interesting! Ironically, I planned to blog about how earth worms survive winter this week. Turns out your FAQ answered it. "Estivation" has a nice sound to it ;-) hot

  2. Erin, We loved the worm video. It is so cool. How do worms make their tunnels? How do they climb up if they have no arms? Why do worms die on the sidewalk when it rains? We are getting worms as class pets. Do you want to name one? From your science buddies 1P

  3. Hi First Graders! I'm so glad you liked the Giant Gippsland Earthworm video. Here are the answers to your questions:

    1. How do worms make their tunnels? - Earthworms don't have arms and legs, but they do have very strong muscles that contract (get little) and expand (get big) that allow them to move. Earthworms eat dirt, so as they move through the soil, they eat the dirt, making space for the tunnel.

    2. How do they climb up if they have no arms? - For an earthworm, going up through soil isn't that different from going down. They use their muscles to push them through the dirt.

    3. Why do worms die on the sidewalk when it rains? Worms need to live in a moist environment, but they don't live in water. For example, a worm would be happy sitting on a nice damp sponge, but it wouldn't be happy if you put it in the sink and filled it with water. So when it rains, a lot of water is absorbed by the soil, which makes the earthworm's underground tunnels flood. Because they don't live IN water, they have to leave their tunnels and go above ground so they don't drown. But when the rain stops, and the sun comes out to dry up the water, the worms have to be quick about getting back underground where it is moist, if the worms dry up from the sun, then they will die - that is why you see dead worms on the sidewalk after it rains.

    That is so exciting that you are going to have worms as your class pets. Thank you so much for asking if I would like to name one! I think a good name for a worm would be Tierra, it means "Earth" or "Soil" in Spanish, and we know that worms, LOVE soil!

  4. Wow! I'm a big fan of earthworms. By the way I love the proto-typical nature show host. "An extrrohrdinry creatcher"

  5. Ahhh! I can't believe I watched that video just before bedtime!

    I never knew that's why the worms died after rains. Fascinating!

    Your first-graders seem to really be digging the worm post! Are they going to have a worm farm? My mother gave my dad such a farm once for Valentine's Day.