Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gummy Worm Measuring Activity

Worm-themed Math activities: Gummy Worm Measuring from

No better activity than one in which you get to eat the data when you're done! In this post I'll share a simple measuring activity we did with gummy worms! This is our 4th week of Wormy Wednesdays with one more to go! Be sure to check out the Wormy Wednesday posts from Andrea at  No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem

Cute boy with gummy worm in his mouth from 

In this earth worm activity, we measured the worm before stretching it and then afterward. We recorded these numbers in our notebook. This idea came from K-5 Math Teaching Resources. Here is a direct link to the Gummy Worm activity.  While I am American, I prefer metric! So as you can see below, we are measuring our worms using the metric side of the ruler.     

Measuring gummy worms in metric:

Both Caleb and I noticed that he became more aggressive with how far he was willing to stretch the worm each trial. The rule was, that we was supposed to pull the worm as far as he could without ripping it. Each time he pushed the envelope a bit more! 

Stretching and measuring a gummy worm! from

Here we are adding our data into a data table in his notebook. We started with a column for #cm before it was stretched, and a column for #cm after it was stretched.  On this particular day, it showed me that we really need to keep working on number formation. Note to self: Make some data tables that have the Handwriting Without Tears gray boxes in them. 

Recording Gummy Worm data, while eating a worm! from

Then to determine how MUCH longer the stretched worm was than the original worm, we guessed it poker chips. We have all sorts of manipulatives (counting bears and Uniffix cubes) but there is just something special about the texture and weight of a poker chip! 

So for example. We had one worm that stretched a total of 22 cm, and his original length was 10. So We Dad helped Caleb to line up the 22 chips and then "take-away"10. The number that remained, is the difference. We added another column to our data table and recorded these numbers (as we ate our gummy worms). I hope this activity helped him begin seeing how differences can be measured and compared. Even if it didn't, its a process right? And we had fun!   

Also, Andrea at No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem have posted their week 4 activities for Wormy Wednesday! Go see what they've been doing with worms this past week! And just to give you a heads up, I'll be hosting a worm-themed linky opening next week, so if you have any earthworm activities, I'd love you to get them ready to link up! Have a wonderful week! 

My Button   Photobucket

If you liked this worm activity, you may enjoy the other earthworm ideas I've posted: You can click on the Worm Unit graphic in the sidebar, or if you prefer, here are some direct links to the individual posts (with more still to come).  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bonbon Break-New Hot Online Magazine for Women

Bonbon Break
Bonbon Break is an online magazine that features women bloggers! Kathy and Val scour the blogosphere each week in search of posts they want to share in their magazine. Bonbon Break has been rewarding for me, personally. Not only because I was asked to be a post contributor in the premiere issue, and several times since, (Toot! Toot!--that's me tooting my own horn!) but it has also been a great place to connect with other bloggers. All of the contributors have the option of joining the private Facebook group, and are able to make pins to the Bonbon Break's Pinterest board. It has been a real joy to meet other women passionate about their lives, and sharing it with anyone who wants to read about it. I know there are other sites whose goal is to unify the blogging community, but I really like Bonbon Break best. 

First, the name. Bonbon Break. I mean, don't we all need a Bonbon Break? So 'nuff said. Another reason I like Bonbon Break is because of the visual style of their site. In the pink ribbon across the top of their header, you can see the categories:
Front Porch, Kitchen, Family Room, Bedroom, Playroom, Mom Cave, and Backyard  

Sample Header of Bonbon Break: on

Each week Bonbon Break features 3-4 posts in each category. These posts really are the cream of the crop. I feel that Kathy and Val have a knack for picking a wide variety of topics that will appeal to most everyone. As you can see from the screen shot I took of the magazine this week, they feature each post with an image to help you quickly figure out where you want to go! (If you sign up for their email, you'll get the same beautiful layout!) 

Example of how Bonbon Break organizes its posts:

And yes, that's my son in the playroom. Our Light/Dark Worm Experiment, is being featured this week. 

Example of how Bonbon Break organizes its posts:
If you are a blogger, you MUST familiarize yourself with Bonbon Break. Not only for the great friends you'll find here, but also for a chance to become a post contributor. The submission link at the top of their page describes the upcoming posts they are looking for, describe the qualifications for being featured.  And even if you're not a blogger yourself, you'll still love the great pieces featured at Bonbon Break. So, if you haven't already, be sure to stop by and check it out! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Math-Themed Worm Activities

Worm-themed Math Activities from

Science and math go hand in hand. As part of our kindergarten earthworm unit, Andrea from No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem have assembled some great math activity that will be a great addition to any worm unit (or just for fun)! Some of the activities I'm going to share we developed ourselves, and others we've borrowed from the wonderful resources available. 

The first math activity I want to share are some AMAZING math manipulatives that focus on tens and ones. Andrea from No Doubt Learning designed these, and I can't say enough how great they are.  She actually has several different games in this free download. The bucket of worms represents the 10's and the single worms represent the ones.

Free Worm-themed Math Manipulatives from Do Doubt Learning:

Clever huh? In the first activity, children count the buckets and worms to and then write the double digit number the image represents. I used the answer sheet as an additional activity, by cutting strips apart and separating the answers so he could match the correct numbers with each row. My son still struggles with writing his numbers, so this was a nice warm up to the activity!   

Tens and ones..wormy style from

While my son can recognize numbers, but often forgets how to get started when writing numbers himself. So I  keep a laminated strip of the numbers that I copied from Handwriting Without Tears book. It ensures we are writing our numbers properly each time! (And yummy grapes...brain food?)

Tens and ones..HWT number writing at

Once I saw Andrea's first activity we brainstormed an idea to make tens and ones a game using the same graphics. The cards are designed so that the bucket cards have a different background as the one's. See my photo below. I laminated the Tens and Ones Recording sheet and used Dry Erase Crayons to record our answers. I've seen a number of unfavorable reviews of these crayons, but we love them. The complaint is that its too hard to erase. But this is why I like these crayons. The markers often wipe off way too easy, not allowing you to finish the activity. We keep pieces of felt handy to erase our crayons, and it works well.    

Tens and ones wormy worksheet by No Doubt learning @

To play the game each contestant draws a card from both the 10's and the 1's pile and writes the number the graphics symbolize. We made it competitive by seeing who would win each round. You can see that we put a check mark by the winner in each row.

Tens and ones wormy worksheet by No Doubt learning @

Rowdy in Room 300The next math activity I want to share is one we found on Mrs. Alderson's blog "Rowdy in room 300." She did all kinds of cool wormy activities in May 2012. The math activity came from a free TPT download called "Wondrous Worms." I used the Fact/Opinion assessment sheet found on pages 12 & 13, and then the "Ordering Those Squirmy Worms" activity on pages 16 and 17. I printed mine off on colored paper, because...why not? The children cut apart the numbers 1-20, and paste them in the correct order on the table.

Cutting and Counting Numbers:
But I took it to the next level, by having Caleb use poker chips (didn't have anything worm-themed) and cover up certain numbers to introduce him to skip counting. We started with even, then odd, then moved onto by 3's. This was a great way to begin talking about skip counting as he could visually see the missing numbers covered up, and then only say the numbers he did see!

Cutting and Skip Counting Numbers using poker

I am spending an entire post on our gummy worm measuring activity, but we also did this simple measuring activity called "Centimeter Worms" designed by Cynthia Vautrot. You can get this activity for free at her TPT store. The child uses playdough (or anything really) and makes various lengths of "worms." It was a simple concept but helped us work on the measuring skills (yeah metric..!) It was also neat to see how my son manipulated the dough to fit the measurement. Instead of taking dough off of the worm, he just squished it to fit. Hence the obese worms you see below!

Centimeter Worms: Playdough Measuring from

As you can see, we had a lot of fun with the wormy math activities we did! If you haven't already, be sure to check my earthworm page to see what else we have been doing.

I'd love to hear what ideas you have to integrate math into your themes! What else could we have done?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Worm Themed Trade Books

Worm-Themed Trade Books from

Using a combination of fiction and non-fiction books is highly recommended for children in the early elementary age grades. I've been working with Andrea at No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem to bring you an extensive worm unit. We've assembled a wonderful selection of books to read to our kindergartners. Here's a look at how I used some of the books in our unit. I hope this is helpful.



There's a Hair in My Dirt


There's a Hair in My Dirt, by Gary Larson (yes, the Far Side Cartoonist) has been a personal favorite of mine since it came out in the late 90's. I read it to my high school students to introduce certain units in my biology class. While there are parts of the book that are not appropriate for a kindergartner, you can avoid those by not reading the thought bubbles aloud. And much of the humor is lost on the younger kids, but I'm telling you, this is a book you will not mind reading over and over again. The book is actually two stories in one. It is from the perspective of a little boy worm, who is unhappy with his lot in life, and so his Dad tells him a story about a "fair" maiden to cheer him up. Its packed full of good science, making the point that people who like nature often misinterpret what they see. My 5-year old son walked away with the understanding that worms help decompose animals after they die. In the last page of this book, the worms spell out the words..."See You Soon!" I read "There's a Hair in My Dirt" on the first day of our unit to set up the importance of these rarely seen invertebrates. Its also a good time to talk about perspective.

The Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad: A Book about Decomposition


Sporting a yellow dress, patterned with WORMS and bugs, Ms. Frizzle, these kids learn that there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to fallen tree. While the science in the book is spot on, so is the science learning philosophy. My favorite Ms. Frizzle quote is, "Take chances! Get messy! Make mistakes!" Oh, you gotta love that!

We read the book first then watched the TV version from You Tube!


Diary of a Worm

Our family loves Doreen Cronin's Duck books, so we knew that the Diary of a Worm would be a great book for our unit. We followed closely the lesson plan found at Read, Write, Think.  They suggest flipping through the book multiple times with your kids. The first time, we didn't read the words, just looking at the illustrations. I introduced the idea that the book will be a combination of both fact and fiction, we made a list of the illustrations we knew were factual. The second time we went through the book we read it for the story line. Read, Write, Think had some great graphic organizers to use.   The third time, we payed closer attention to the thought bubbles and also constructed a fiction list, for things we knew worms couldn't really do, like write in a diary!



Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer


"Wiggling Worms at Work" has both accurate scientific information, yet fun cartoonish, illustrations. It is packed full of so much wormy information, while we did read it cover to cover, I also re-read pages that aligned with our weekly themes
  • Physical characteristics (pgs. 8-11, 14-17)
  • A Worm's life (pgs. 12-15, 18-29)
  • Worm's enemies (pgs. 16-17)
  • Worm's role in the environment (pgs. 4-7, 30-31)


 Worms Are Gross by Leigh Rockwood 


While this books covers all kinds of segmented worms, earthworms are the focus. This book has wonderful photographs. I particularly like the book's book focus on the amount of worms in the soil, worm's habitats, the easy to understand life cycle graphic (pg. 12-13), and the photographs of a bird and frog eating a worm!    

Twist, Wiggle, and Squirm: A Book about Earthworms by Laurence Pringle


While Twist, Wiggle, and Squirm; A Book About Earthworms, was published in 1973, I really like it. The illustrations are sketches, mostly black and white, with a few pages that have gold and green color. I copied the pages for my son to color while I read (a common practice in our house). I particularly like the image of the worm pulling on the worm on page 11. This really helped solidify for us the importance of the bristles (setae)! It also has a sketch of a mole eating a worm, which was missing from a lot of the other books.

Earthworms: Underground Farmers by Patricia Lauber

We did not read "Earthworms: Underground Farmers" cover to cover, but referred to sections as we needed. The illustrations are a combination of photographs and sketches. I made copies of the sketches "An Earthworm's Body" on page 10 and "Inside a Worm's Body" on page 32 as coloring pages. They are simple and show labels clearly, just what I wanted for my kindergartner. But most of the book is geared for older readers. We loved the photographs, specifically the salamander eating the worm on page 22.

Earthworms, Dirt, and Rotten Leaves: An Exploration in Ecology 


This is not a book I read to my son, but I used it as a reference as I put together the unit. Earthworms, Dirt, and Rotten Leaves by Molly McLaughlin was my primary resource for experiments that I designed for our unit.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We Love Worms Linky

Worm-Themed LInky hosted by STEM mom

Welcome to our Worm-Themed Linky Party.  I spent the month of October working with Andrea from No Doubt Learning and Erin from The Usual Mayhem to develop an earthworm theme for our kindergartners. We had so much fun finding fun activities on the web and developing our own. All of my earthworm activities can be found by clicking on my "Worms" graphic in the sidebar. 

But we know that you probably have a great activity you'd like to share! We'd love if you linked your ideas up here! What a great resource to have everyone's fun wormy stuff in one place! 

Please grab a button below and put it into the post to which you are linking. Be sure to link to the post directly, not your homepage. That way, months down the road, people will still be able to find the wormy post! Thanks so much!

Linked up @
TBA's Ultimate Linky Party


Food Chain Activity - Worm Unit

Food Chain Activity for kids: from
As part of our worm unit, I've constructed Food Chain Activity Cards to introduce kids to the idea that all living things are connected. I've made a deck of cards that include an earthworm, as well as a variety of earthworm's enemies, and then additional animals that will allow kids to see how animals connect to one another. The 32-card activity includes a variety of pictures of plants and animals and a variety of food chain vocabulary. The free download is available at the end of this post.

Implementing the Food Chain Activity with Kindergarten-age Children

Our focus is earthworms, so I had my 5 year old son Caleb pick the worm card first. With questions such as "What do worms eat?" and "Who eats worms?" As you can see in the photos, I gave him a dry erase marker and let him draw right on the plastic tablecloth that covers the white cloth one. I think writing on the table was his favorite part of the activity. He went a bit crazy with the arrows as we added more and more cards.      

Boy using STEM Mom's Food Chain Activity Cards

We started simply with a single food chain drawing arrows in the direction that the energy moves. So plants is first card, with an arrow pointing to the worm. Then the child can pick any predator/enemy of the worm to go next.  Caleb drew an arrow to the bird and then the owl.

Tip: Arrows point in the direction in which the energy moves.

Boy drawing arrows in STEM Mom's Food Chain Activity

 Then we started over and made a new chain, again starting with the plant/soil and worm. The purpose of doing several linear chains was to make sure he understood that worms are eaten by several different animals. Then we stepped it up a notch by putting the worm in the middle and drawing arrows outward to represent the animals that eat the worms.  Arrows going in multiple directions is how we began our food web. 

Boy Drawing Food Web using free printable Food Chain Activity Cards from

From there we kept working out drawing lines and seeing what connections we could make. Caleb liked it when the card was on the opposite side of the table and his line had to go all the way around or through the web. You just never know what gets them excited!  

Boy Drawing Food Web using free printable Food Chain Activity Cards from

Sample Food Web: Free Food Chain Activity Cards from

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can Worms Smell? Wormy Experiment

Welcome to our third Wormy Wednesday! I've been working with Andrea at No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem to bring you an extensive worm unit, and man (annelid) has it been fun! We've designed a nice home for our worms, we've experimented to see if worms like wet or dry surfaces, we tested to determine whether they prefer light or dark, and today I'm sharing an experiment that will test whether or not worms can smell!  This idea came from Wild Science TV.

"Can Worms Smell?" An experiment for kids: from includes a free printable

Materials Needed

  • Earthworms (ones you found, or nightcrawlers you bought at the store)
  • Wormy Science Lab Notebook (free download available at the bottom of this post)
  • paper plates
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • Variety of substances to test: we choose apple, soap, and gummy worm, soda (coke zero), and vinegar. 
  • water
Kindergarten Unit on Worms:

Getting Your Kids into the "Experimenting" Mood

To get your kids mentally ready for the lab, maybe while observing your earthworm home, begin asking questions about worms' physical features and a worm's ability to smell. Your conversation might go a little something like this, 

We've already determined that, while worms don't have eyes like us, they do see light and dark. So what about their sense of smell? Do they have noses?  What sorts of things do you think they would want to be able to smell? (food) If they do smell, do you think worms like some smells and not other smells? Would you like to test to see if worms can smell? Let's collect some items to test.   

Worm Smell Experiment Procedure

  1. Using a pencil and ruler, draw 4 quadrants onto the paper plate. We choose to write on the bottom of the plate since ours had blue flowers on it.   
  2. Write a letter to represent the item you will be putting into each quadrant. For us it was "A" for apple, "S" for soap, "G" for gummy worm, and "W" for water. Water is your control, so really you are only testing 3 substances.  

Can Worms Smell? Plate with 4 quadrants and 4 items to test: STEM mom

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NSTA Presentation-October 2012

I was honored to present at the Louisville Area NSTA conference with a wonderful science teacher named Allison Hennings. Before deciding to become a teacher, she was an nurse. She is what an example of what is RIGHT with education. Her students have a wide  range of abilities, but her expectations remain high. She gains their respect by guiding them along the way, going above and beyond to make them succeed. She is in her second year of teaching a research course in which her students design and implement a STEM research project that the student themselves come up with. To say her students are doing amazing things, is not adequate. 

Mrs. Hennings and I talked about general tips for implementing research with students, ranging from pitfalls, benefits, teaching the literacy components, and how to prepare students for orally presenting their work. Here is the presentation we gave.    

Friday, October 19, 2012

Building Wind Turbines: An Engineering Lab

The view from our science window, we can see a landscape of newly erected wind turbines going up. So naturally, I had to incorporate that into our labs! I will admit that engineering is my weak area of STEM, but if I expect my students to be uncomfortable while learning, than so must I! After looking around for ideas, I decided to use resources, and ended up modifying three of their lessons, out of the extensive FREE lessons I had to choose from. You can see the entire list on their curriculum page.  While I whole-heartedly agree with high-level inquiry labs, I still struggle with having to "know it all" before I let kids learn on their own. If this is true of you too, you'll like this curriculum. Its give teachers just enough information make them confident, but not so much that we'll  "ruin" it for the kids!  

I ended up doing a series of Wind Turbine lessons that lasted a total of four, 90 minute class periods. But there is enough curriculum to last an entire semester, if you are so lucky! I will talk about the first three class periods in this post and the 4th class session in another post about how we tested our turbines

Building Turbines: Inquiry Engineering Lab: from

Session 1 and 2: Understanding Sources and Forms of Energy; How is Energy Converted to Electricity? 

The goal of the first session was the introduce the idea of different forms of energy (radiant, thermal, mechanical, electrical are all forms) and sources (petroleum, coal, solar, wind). The goal of the second session was to have students better learn the differences between energy conversion and transfer and its importance to electricity generation. I got this lesson directly from Unit One: Lesson 1: Understanding Sources and Form of Energy. (I was actually working from the first edition, the 2nd edition is even better.) I think the focus on how energy is "lost" and how with each energy transfer and conversion the amount of energy we have to use becomes reduced is an important concept for us to grasp. I particularly like the graphic they have in the student handouts on page 17, to illustrate this point. 

What I love about this curriculum is that it truly is inquiry. The (student) lesson does not start out with a narrative describing energy forms and sources. Students brainstorm these themselves, figuring out where their energy comes from and in what form!