Children were encouraged to gather round the table to see mature compost with a few worms in it. © National Trust / Wimpole Estate
Petersfield School in Orwell has recently been working on its Eco-School status and during science week in March 2009 they had a helping hand from the National Trust for a science day with a focus on recycling.
Illustrating how museums and heritage organisations can help with school projects, the National Trust’s Learning team from the Wimpole Estate visited the school and brought along compost full of the worm Eisenia fetida and jars of earthworms and other invertebrates to look at.
They also brought along a giant worm model (made from a pair of tights and showing the setae, segments and saddle).
During the day three multi-age eco-buddy groups came to the ‘worm session’, which was divided into three sections starting with ‘Gran’s Garbage’ a story which introduced some of the main features of a wormery compost container.
“The children then got to know worms ‘from end to end’,” explained Heather Polge, Wimpole’s Learning Officer, “they saw the giant worm model and heard about the bristles on worm segments and about worm feeding and reproduction. The children really enjoyed touching the worms and wanted to feel the bristles on the large earthworm.”
The last group of the day set up compost containers outside in their wildlife garden. © National Trust / Wimpole Estate
Children were encouraged to gather round the table to see mature compost with a few worms in it, compared with a hungry seething mass of worms from the top of the compost container where they were all feeding on the fruit and vegetable peelings.
Seeing so many worms at once caused some squeals of excitement and horror from some children. Everyone then looked at garden earthworms for comparison and many of children were keen to feel the bristly underneath of the worm as it dragged itself along.
The children were all given a worm in a small container and a magnifying glass to take back to their tables to examine and draw. Other mini-beasts ranging from snails, millipedes, woodlice and beetle larvae were also examined and drawn by the children.
At the end of the session children filled in a sheet asking a series of simple questions to determine whether they had understood the re-cycling nature of the compost container. All the groups had understood that the worms ate the rotting fruit and vegetable peelings; that they turned this into compost, which could then be used for growing plants including fruit and vegetables which could be eaten by people.
The last group of the day set up compost containers outside in their wildlife garden on wire mesh (next to the insect hotel, which is made from pallets and straw). The fruit and vegetable scraps from their break were used to start off the compost container and the container was populated with the worms that came to school for science week. The rest of the mini-beasts were also released in the wildlife area.
The National Trust’s Learning and Discovery section of their website has a Schools & Teachers section. This is where you can contact the National Trust Learning team and discuss learning opportunities with them.