Bristletails, Beetles and Thrifts, Oh Mites!

Friday. This was our final day of investigations for week 1. Our goal for the morning was to find and identify the microorganisms (decomposers) found in the first 1cm of decomposing mulch from our assigned locations. We harvested the samples Thursday from the East Newton schoolyard and placed them in our home-made Berlese Funnels overnight under lamps. The concept, to expose the critters to light and heat and force them through the funnel into a baggies of alcohol then examine the contents under a microscope. We could have spent all day searching for bugs however Dr. Eloise Carter, Dr. Steve Baker, Theodosia Wade and Sherry Abts work hard to keep us on schedule. They don’t want us to miss a thing. Consequently we don’t burn out and are continuously delighted by each and every new investigation they initiate.

At lunch Julie, a woman who co-teaches at a Montesorri school with her mother in a school she attended as a child, brought in show and tell. In reality, she invited her husband, a HS chemistry teacher to join us for lunch. He brought a hand held butane blow torch and treated us to bananas brulee! 101 unusual uses for a blow torch.Coincidently, he had been Bilal’s HS Chemistry teacher! Bilal is our Emory student facilitator.

More on Bilal. Aside from being a gifted science student and exceptional communicator, he has a fascination for worms. After lunch he toted in a large plastic bin covered with an aging Mexican blanket. Naturally it piqued What do red worms like to eat?our interest and we gathered around to investigate. When he uncovered the bin and opened the lid. We all leaned over and peered into the open bin. Ahhhh, we could see the rich dark soil crawling with worms and dotted with bits of watermelon rinds, potato peels and other discarded food along with a paper towel. The soils appeared to be moist and there was no detectable odor. Bilal composts at home to recycle food scraps and to produce rich soil for potting plants. I think I could do this!

Let’s see, now I have so many idea I am going to have to work very hard to incorporate all of these investigation into the classroom curriculum. I definitely want to start a worm fam. In fact I will start today and by the time school starts I will have a great example of worm composting. I plan to pair up the students and have them create worm condos, then get into groups of four to conceive a comparative study using their mini worm composers. Worm Composting – lesson by Education World.

Here is one of the most important lessons learned by me. Allow the students to contribute as much asExcavating a leaf. possible to the experimental design and methodology by engaging them in the investigation process from the get go. Once they are engaged as observers and begin formulating questions, real questions they generated from their intrinsic curiosity, then they will have a vested interest in discovery the outcome of their experiments.

Engaging scientific curiosity is so fundamental to life, so limitless and so fun, its irresistible. Integrating writing skills by recording data, describing observations, researching, summarizing results, and various essay opportunities such as compare contrast or 1st person narrative as modeled in Diary of a Worm can all add to the richness of the learning experience and leverage off the enthusiasm generated by the investigation.

If you live in Florida or Georgia and have time next summer to attend this Institute I highly recommend it. You will light up like a child in the woods on a sunny summer with your best friends experiencing nature for the first time.

Check out these links for additional information and learn how you can compost in the classroom as part of your curriculum:

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