Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wormy Questions: Moving from Imagination to Observation

As previously mentioned in our blog post on our worm investigation, our class shifted their interest in plant decomposition to the role that an animal (a worm) plays in the process.  The children moved from drawing imaginative pictures of what they thought a worm’s life might be like and began to pull observational strategies from their analytical tool box to record what they were actually seeing: how do we know what we know?  What does a worm weigh? How long is it?  What is our background knowledge? What are good guesses and theories. based on our observations? How can we work together to think about worms?

The interwoven push-pull nature of imagination and observation seen in earlier works initially emerged but soon turned into serious queries:

Worms live just like us, only underground

Early attempts to weight worms, with a little anthropomorphic thinking mixed in
Imagining what worm tunnels might look like, without actual observation

And then, there was a shift....

What do I see?  How can I use my senses?  What can I record? 
If I put a worm on my paper and let it move around, I see dirt tracks and sliminess
I can measure it and make guesses about the size of grown worms and kid worms (and how much poop is produced)
I can try to weigh worms on the scale:  "I observed that it weighs 50 grams."
[Please note:  There are no 50 gram worms in our classroom, but this shows that the children 
are already thinking about how to weigh things using standard units of measurement.]

The students were circulated in groups throughout the classroom to answer one of four questions each day.  The first big question:  What’s inside of a worm?  Below are some of the initial responses.  There was a lot of debate and conjecture as to whether a worm had a brain or a heart, and if it did have a heart, how many might it have.  Does it have lungs?  Does it have bones?  Or, as L. put it, is it just "disgusting stuff and poop?"

 The second question built off of the first:  how does a worm move?

Hinges? Slime? Bones?  Grippers?  No bones? 

Is it like a double bus with an accordion thing in the middle?
 The third and fourth questions revisited our initial line of questioning, 
related to decomposition:
Are worms decomposers?  If so, how?

They are decomposers and they decompose (and sleep, apparently)
They break things down in our worm bin and have something inside of them that aid the process
What can and can't they decompose? 
Thinking about how the worm's body plays a role in decomposition
 What is the relationship between a worm and the soil? 

A cautionary tale about interrelationship

   I: Soil gave the worm a life and the worm cleans the soil.  
If your garden didn't have a worm, your garden plants would be rotten.  


      F:  They both help each other.  The worm eats the dirt.  It lives in the dirt.  It makes a pathway of emptiness.  It digs deeper and dirt falls back in.  The holes get filled in with water and makes the soil moist.  

      L:  Worms clean the soil and help the plants (including grass).  Left: garden without worms.  Right:  garden with worms.

 Once we were able to examine the drawings that the students made in response to each of the four questions, we were able to ascertain three main subjects that needed more exploration:  
Worm Movement
The Interior of a Worm/Inner Structure
Transformation (how dirt/rock turns into soil via the worm)

Each of the three groups was chosen strategically based on the interest evident in students' work with the four questions.  

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