Then they told me about the pictures, and I wrote the
words down: “The worm hides under the leaves.” “Worms
are long.” “Here is the daddy worm.”
During circle time, we all counted the worms we found in
the park and put them in the terrarium. Eddie said we
should call our terrarium “Worm City.” He then said we
should put a lot of leaves on top because there were lots
of leaves in the wormhole.
Kids then broke up for some free play. It was interest-
ing that the kids who had done the collecting were
“wormed out” for the moment, and went off to other
areas of the classroom. Other kids now seized the oppor-
tunity to spend some time with the worms, and each kid
spoke a different language. One spoke Spanish. Another
spoke Arabic. Another spoke Russian. I sat around the
terrarium with them. I pointed to a worm wiggling in the
dirt and said, “Look how it moves.” After we observed for
a while, I asked, “Can you show me with your body how the
worm moves?” Vanessa got on the floor. First, she stretched
out, then pulled her legs in. “Like this,” she said proudly.
Then Anthony saw the worm burrowing into the dirt, he
said “It’s going downstairs.” (The Spanish word “abajo”
means down and downstairs.) Anthony had kept calling
worms “snails,” but today he got it (!!). They were worms,
and that was a big leap for him. He drew a picture of a
worm and dictated a caption in Spanish that the parent
When lunch arrived, the kids were reluctant to leave
the terrarium so I put the terrarium in the middle of their
lunch table so they could watch the worms while they ate.
One child wondered aloud, “Think worms like ice cream?”
Another said, “They eat leaves, silly.” Another said, “It’s
berries they like.” I wrote down their ideas . . . and so a
new investigation begins.
During circle time, I shared children’s theories about what
worms eat. Then I asked the group, “So how can we find
out if they eat ice cream? How would we know if they like
As a group, we decided to observe worms in their natu-
ral habitat, checking out what is available for them to eat.
We are also going to put different foods in the terrarium
(though we’ll skip the ice cream!), to test out kids’ ideas. I’ll
also bring in some nonfiction books about worms, so kids
can compare their discoveries to what they find in books.
I’ve learned to take children’s lead, using their theories as
a starting point, then helping them think about how they
might test out those theories. And by helping them test
their theories, they’re able to refine their thinking, and
develop new theories that lead to new questions and
Carson, Rachel. 1965. The sense of wonder. New York: Harper & Row.
Eisenberg, M. 2000. The influence of materials on children’s
play: Explorations at the water table. Unpublished study, Tufts
National Research Council. 1996. National science education stan-
dards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
12 Discovering Nature with Young Children