Jackie Applin and her third grade class, the Applin Dumplin' Gang, at Newberry Elementary School in Newberry, MI, conducted a project in which they learned about decomposition of waste and the life cycle by creating and maintaining "worm bins." The project gave them an opportunity to collaborate and learn with students at another school in Michigan. For more on the Applin Dumplin' Gang's experiences with the worm bin project, you can check out Jackie's teacher case. For now, read on in this unit to learn how you can do a worm bin project.
In this unit, students will learn about decomposition and the life cycle by creating worm bins. Through direct observation, they will develop an understanding of the effects different organisms, including humans, have on one another. They will collect and share scientific data with students in another school over email. Such activities will give students an opportunity to explore scientific concepts in a manner that makes science more personally relevant and meaningful.
Students will be able to collect background information on the worm bin project using some of the resources provided as well as directed Internet and library searches.
The plans for this unit are tailored to fit classroom
situations where students and teachers have access to several computers that have
internet access. To accomodate the fact that few classrooms will have access to
a computer lab with full Internet access, students will work in research groups
to explore internet sites and conduct internet research.
Materials and Resources
We have drawn on Michigan state science standards projects and the national
science standards projects of the the National Research Council and the American
Association for the Advancement of Science in the development of this unit. We
feel that these standards projects provide
excellent guidelines for teachers on how to focus science work in their
One Computer versus Many
The lessons in this unit are designed so that students can work in collaborative groups as well as in a whole-class format, the idea being that each group works at a computer with an Internet connection and integrative software. If the classroom has only one computer with an Internet connection, collaborative groups can still be used. In this case, a block of time can be set aside each day for work on the worm bin project and seed planting lessons in which collaborative groups take turns fulfilling their duties. For instance, one day during this block of time, group 1 can feed the worms or plants and note the amount of food. While group 1 is feeding, group 2 can email its partner group at a different school to report on the status of the worms or plants from the previous day or several days ago. Group 3 can discuss the kinds of things they'd like to share with their partner group when it is their turn to email. The next day, groups can switch duties.
A similar tack can be used for the Internet research and
data presentation lessons. While group 1 researches worm, plant, decomposition,
soil, and/or life cycle information on the Internet or organizes their data using
ClarisWorks or the HTML editor, other groups can conduct traditional library
research. They can look in books and magazines to determine if there are any
pictures or sounds they'd like to have that might be available on the Internet so
that when it is their turn, they can make valuable use of the time. They can also
discuss options for presenting their data; when it is their turn to use the
computer, they will have developed some semblance of a game plan for working