Changes in the Environment
Lilla Green

When Teaching about the Environment, You Might Want to Consider Changes In the World Around Us 

Source: These ideas come from Teacher’s Resource Book: “Box-It or Bag It”
Authors: Donna Burk, Allyn Snider, Paula Symonds. [Math. Learning Center, Salem, Oregon].

The following plan was developed by E Chandler
Subject: Math. - Science
Topic: Exploring Changes
Grade: K-3 All levels

Changes In the World Around Us.......
Lesson Time: 5 class periods

Problem: What are some changes you notice in the world around you?

Let Pupils Hypothesize this problem.............

Materials Needed: objects as: pieces of paper, crayons, paper clips, pipe
cleaners, rubber bands, ribbons, crackers, index cards, string, etc.
Ball of yarn or string, 12 x 18 sheets of construction paper for each child,
Baby picture and recent picture of each child.

Description: In this unit the child discovers how life is full of changes,
through hands-on activities completed in class, as well as ones completed at
home and brought to class

Set-Up Unit: “Life is full of changes: We can change objects with our
hands, our body changes as it grows, objects change over time, and our
weather changes each day.

I. Changes By Hands: With several pieces of paper, ask how they could
change the paper with just their hands? As they suggest ways, make labels
and change the paper the way they suggest. Attach labels and paper to
poster board in graph form. Put the paper under the appropriate label.
Pull other objects out of a sack or box and decide how they could change each object just using their hands. Attach each change under the appropriate

Ask questions like: “Which item could we change the most?....... Least?
..... Why?.......... “Which way did we change the item the most?” Count the items in each column and label with numeral cards.

Independent Changing: Have sacks labeled as those on graph. Have items in
container. Students will decide in which sacks they’re to place the items
and discuss with a friend why they put them there.

II. Changes By Growth: (There are two ways you can complete this activity.)

(1) Send home a length of string or yarn, the length of your tallest student plus about 25 in. Ask the parents to cut and tape a piece of paper on each string: one telling how long their child was when he/she was born and one telling how tall they are now. You might like to have a long section of butcher paper so the class can identify and attach their strings. “See How We Have Changed.”

(2) Invite someone to bring a new baby to class or invent one. Cut a string the length of the real baby or your made-up one. Trace the baby’s hand and foot and let the class compare theirs to the tracing.


Discuss: How often babies eat, what they eat, how often they sleep, and how hard it is to find dropped items.

Send the students home with a length of string or yarn and a note, asking the parents to cut the string to the length of their child at birth, and put
their names on the end.

The next day, lay out each string and ask the class to compare and decide why there would be so many different lengths?

You will need butcher paper and masking tape. Put the babies’ name and length of string (with numeral for length) at the top of the paper. Make a label saying “Shorter”, “the Same”, “ Longer”. Tape a strip of masking tape (sticky side out) under each label. Let each child come up and decide under which label does his string belong, compared to the babies length? Discuss your findings.

III. Comparing Hands:  Send a note and a large piece of construction paper home, asking each child to trace around his and his family’s hands. Cut them out and label with the hand’s name. (mom, dad, me) In class, give each a tracing of the babies’ hand and have each child glue his -her families’ hand in order of size. (babies’ hand first). Discuss how our hands change as we grow and how women’s hands are sometimes smaller than the man’s hand.

IV. Objects Changing With Time: Have the children bring something to school they believe will change over time. (Some may bring vegetables, fruit, seeds or flowers) All items should be sealed in plastic bag or jars with tight lids. (This prevents allergy problems from mold.)

V. Changing Of The Weather: Let your class graph the weather for a
month, day by day or you could break it down and show how it changes from the beginning of the school day to the end of the school day.

When Teaching Environment, You Might Want To Teach - "What's So
Special About Earthworms?"

Lesson Source: The National Science Foundation created a packet of
lessons for National Science & Technology Week (NSTW), April 21-29, 1995 - the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. I've chosen to share this one with you here.

When I saw this lesson, I first used it with my preschoolers in our CFE grant and continued using it with Mary Muhammad, my co-teacher in the Science Lab at Hartigan Community Arts Specialty School. The pupils exhibited mixed emotions, but the primary school children were the most receptive. We have continued to introduce earthworms, mealworms, millipedes, butterfly larvae, and other "creepy crawlies" for about 6 years now. The kids love to explore these little non-threatening animals. The lessons that follow, can be used or adapted to all grade levels. You'll find that the NSTW activities are designed to encourage students to ask questions, and then to discover their own answers through hands-on experiences and group discussions. This inquiry-based approach asks them to build on the knowledge they already have rather than to memorize isolated terms and concepts. It gives them a solid base for a lifetime of scientific inquiry.

**Please email me at to receive earthworm, millipede, mealworm and caterpillar diagrams, and pupil worksheets

"Scientists are explorers, always investigating unknown regions. Sometimes the uncharted territory is an earthworm. Children share this drive to explore. It's obvious in the way they ask questions about anything and everything in the world."

Plowing Through Garbage

Problem: Where do earthworms live, and how do they help us? To find out, students investigate worms and learn why they are nicknamed "little soil plows."

Plowing through Garbage (Suggested grade level: K-8)

"The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed, the land was in fact regularly plowed and still continues to be thus plowed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures."

-- Charles Darwin

Activity Background

An acre of soil may house as many as one million earthworms. These little "soil plows" carry leaves and other materials into the ground -- speeding up decomposition -- and bring nutrients and humus to the top. Earthworms move soil particles up to 40 times their weight as they burrow through the ground. This movement loosens, mixes, and conditions the soil. The tunnels that earthworms leave behind let air and water, needed by plants and animals, into the ground.

Like all other living things, earthworms are part of different food chains. Earthworms eat organic matter, such as leaves, grass, or decaying animals. (After organic matter travels through a worm's digestive tract, small pellet-like piles, called castings emerge.) In turn, earthworms are eaten by birds, moles, turtles, snakes, and other animals. People use worms to catch fish to eat. When earthworms die, they're "consumed" by other decomposers, and their nutrients are released back into the soil.

Earthworms are made up of rings, called segments. These segments circle the width of the worm's body and make up the entire length of the earthworm. Each segment is surrounded by one set of muscles, and connected to adjoining segments by a different set of muscles. The alternating action of these two sets of muscles allows worms to lengthen, contract, move, and twist through the soil. Each segment on a worm's body is rimmed with tiny bristles, called setae. Along with helping worms move through the soil, setae also help them stay put -- setae are the reason robins have to work so hard to pull worms out of the ground.

By looking closely, you can tell the front, or anterior, of a worm from the back, or posterior. The narrow, slightly pointed end is the anterior, which thickens to force soil apart. Earthworms have mouths but no teeth. Everything they eat is pushed through their digestive tracts, where it is ground and worked by muscle action, tiny stones, digestive juices, and bacteria.

Earthworms don't have eyes, but they move away from light, especially when it is shined on their front end. Avoiding light, and Earth's surface during daylight, protects worms from predators and from drying out in the sun. Earthworms can be found above ground primarily at night.

Worms have special glands to maintain the skin moisture they need in order to take oxygen through their skin and into their blood vessels. Because they breathe through their skin, excessive water can suffocate them. This is why earthworms stampede upwards after a heavy rain. Each earthworm has both male and female reproductive organs, covered by a whitish band around its middle, called a clitellum. During mating, any two adult worms can join together at this band, their heads pointing in opposite directions, to fertilize each other's eggs. The clitellum then secretes mucus, which encases the eggs in the soil until the young hatch.


The activities that follow provide students with experiences about earthworm structure, where and how earthworms live, and earthworm behavior. Students begin by collecting worms to study in the classroom. They observe some of the special structures of earthworms, specifically the bristles or setae, the ring-like segments, and the clitellum. Students explore how these structures help earthworms function and survive. Students also gain experience in asking questions and designing investigations as they compare the worms' behavior under varying conditions. Then students vary the worms' environment to see how they respond to differences in light, temperature, and moisture. Finally, students examine how the behavior of earthworms affects their environment.


observing, predicting, inferring, explaining, applying

Integrated Subjects

mathematics, language arts, art

Activity 1:
Do You Dig Worms?

What you need:

  • pails

  • shovel or trowel

  • waterproof container with cover to hold the worms (a cooler works well)

What to do:

A good way to begin these activities is a field trip to hunt for earthworms. Looking outside for worms gives children a chance to see the many different kinds of environments where they can find worms. Before taking children out to look for worms, ask: Where do you think you'll find earthworms? Why? How deep down will the worms be? Why? Do you think you can find worms in the same place every day? Why or why not?
Students can collect earthworms by digging for them in rich, moist soil. Have them dig down approximately 20 centimeters (8 inches), lift the soil, and use their hands to carefully sift through it to find the worms. Another way to find worms is to look on the ground after a warm, soaking rain, or to search for them at night, using a flashlight, under rocks, logs, or old boards. If you live in the city, hunt for worms in vacant lots, city parks, athletic fields, and lawns.

Students should mark or map the location where they find worms. This will help them determine the kinds of conditions that worms prefer. It will also guide them in returning the worms after finishing the activities. Make sure children refill holes and chunks of grass when they finish.

If earthworms are hard to find in your neighborhood, consider buying them from bait and tackle shops. If your classroom temperature is above 65 degrees F, be sure to mention that when purchasing worms so that you will get worms that prefer warmer temperatures and are more likely to survive in a classroom environment. Worms can be purchased from most school science supply catalogs. You can also purchase them from the following sources:

Flowerfield Enterprises
10332 Shaver Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49002

Cape Cod Worm Farm
30 Center Avenue
Buzzards Bay, MA 02532

Henry’s Bait Shop
31st and Canal Street
Chicago Illinois

Activity 2:
Discovering Earthworms

What you need:

  • earthworms
  • lens
  • clear containers (such as milk jugs or soda bottle bottoms)
  • flashlight
  • ruler
  • soil or potting mix
  • water

What to do:

1. Now that they've have had a chance to find earthworms in their natural environments, ask students, What do you know about earthworms? Generate a class list of things students know, or ideas they have, about earthworms. Add a column called "Questions we have about earthworms" to your class list, and record any student questions there. Keep the class list posted throughout the project. Ask: Can anyone suggest some ways we might try to answer the questions we have about worms? Write student ideas in a third column called "Earthworm explorations." Add columns to this chart when appropriate.

2. Allow pairs or small groups of students to observe and discover different features of earthworms. Have students take a scoop of dirt containing earthworms to their desks on a paper plate. Students who are afraid to touch the worms can use a pencil or spoon to handle them. Caution students to be careful so that the worms are not harmed. Discuss the students' observations and add them to the class chart. Use student questions and ideas to set up earthworm exploration stations. You can conduct some or all of the following mini-explorations. These mini-explorations will help lay the groundwork for examining how worms affect plants and soil.

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