In Lydia Nowak's Crest Hill, IL, classroom, worms and computer skills flourish. "I was looking for a hands-on hook for my third- and fourth-grade technology class," says Lydia.
"Now, as my students raise worms and explore their role in food chains, they track their observations and questions online." Together, the class considers which questions they can answer through research via the Internet and other media, and which they might answer themselves through investigations.
When students wondered how their "worm water" would affect plant growth, for example, they investigated by watering a sample of marigolds with that solution and another sample with plain water. (The worm-water-fertilized flowers thrived!)
With a goal of having students practice electronic communication skills and demonstrate what they'd learned, Lydia created an assignment. Pairs of students were to choose three or four of their questions, then design a Power Point presentation to deliver to other classes, at parents' night, and at a junior high science event. Each slide in the presentation had to feature a worm-related question (How do worms have babies? Do worms respond to vibrations?), a research- or investigation-derived answer (in text and recorded voices), and images (drawings, Internet photos, shots of themselves working with worms).
"Because the kids were so engaged with their subjects, they were inspired to work extra hard on technology presentations," says Linda. "The worm bin was one of the best teaching tools I've purchased."