Wiggly Worms

Kristi Kuehn
Groveland Elementary School
Minnetonka, MN
Based on an original activity from the Foss Kit, Animals 2x2
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In this inquiry-based worms lesson, kindergarten students will compare and contrast red worms and earthworms through exploration (magnifying glasses provided) and a read-aloud. As a whole group, we'll complete a KWHL chart and a vocabulary list of describing words.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to
  1. Practice observational and inquiry skills
  2. Further develop skills with a magnifying glass
  3. Learn key descriptors/classifiers of red and earthworms
  4. Practice comparing and contrasting skills

Context for Use

This is a kindergarten lesson for any class size. You could include an indoor and an outdoor portion. My district uses the Foss kits, so we get our worms from the kit, but you could make a lesson out of extracting the worms from the ground yourself. Or, the observation could be completed in tubs of moist dirt outside.

Prior Knowledge Required: Proper Use of the Magnifying Glass and how to respect/handle live creatures. Students should be familiar with these skills before the lesson begins.

Description and Teaching Materials

Magnifying glasses (preferably 1 per student, but they could share)
Chart Paper for the KWHL chart and recording student observations and descriptions
Tubs of moist dirt or strips of wet newspaper for the worms
Storybook: Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
Sink & Soap for washing hands

Prior to the Lesson

  1. Place a gummy worm inside a mystery box or bag
  2. Check-out the book Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
  3. Make 2 charts: 1 should be labeled in 4 sections for KWHL purposes. The other should be divided into 2 sections labeled Red worms and Earthworms. This chart should be "hidden" so that the element of mystery is still there.
  4. Order your worms through Foss or determine a method for extracting worms naturally with your class (See Project Wild Early Childhood Curriculum for a great method).
  5. Acquire 1 magnifying glass per child.


  1. Students should be in a circle as you show them the "mystery box." Ask for a volunteer to feel inside the box and describe to their peers what they notice. (long & skinny, soft, squishy) Guide the child to refrain from telling the name of the object until the other students guess!
  2. Pull out the KWHL chart and complete the 1st 3 sections: Know, Want to Know, How to Learn? Sections. Guide the students to say that they could observe real worms in order to learn more about them. Explain that we will be observing the worms and that we will be sorting the worms in ways they are alike. (Leave it a mystery that there are 2 kinds of worms)
  3. After reviewing outside behavior expectations, magnifying glass rules and respect for and proper handling of any critter, go outside to a plot of grass with your tub(s) of worms. Hand out magnifying glasses and give students 10+ minutes to observe and notice. (Base the time on student interest and attention-span.)
  4. After a good span of time to simply observe, explain to the students that they will need to SORT the worms by likeness. You may have the kids work individually, with a partner or small group. I would recommend partners, so that students have ample time to handle the creatures. Use the original tubs that the worms came in, so that their skin can moisten in the dirt/wet newsprint after the kid-handling. Remind students that they will need to explain HOW they sorted their worms. Rotate around to help guide frustrations and answer questions. Be open to different kinds of sorting.
  5. Clean up, go inside, wash hands!
  6. Read the story, Wiggling Worms at Work to focus attention back and give students more facts.
  7. As a class, discuss how they sorted their worms. Give each group partner time to share. Give the students the names of each worm: red and earthworms. Briefly talk about their characteristics as you record on the chart paper.
  8. Movement Break!! Have students move around the room like worms for 1 minute.
  9. CLOSURE: Gather on the carpet again and Review the KWHL chart. Add the last section... What did you learn? What do worms eat? What do you know about their skin? What are their body parts? How are red and earthworms different? How are they alike?

**This lesson is adapted from the Foss Science Kit: Animals 2x2 - worms. In the Foss lesson, students observe and share information, but there is no KWHL chart, storybook, or tie to the Math Standards with sorting/classifying.

Teaching Notes and Tips

For students who are afraid of touching critters, I always allow them to observe first, but I show them that there is nothing to be afraid of. I touch the critters myself, and I educate the kids about the critters (ie: worms don't bite, which is oftentimes what makes the kids the most nervous).

I have always enjoyed teaching the lesson from the Foss kit, but I truly enjoy the hearty addition of a connection to Literature and Math. This lesson is a little bit more substantial than Foss provides.


Observation of student participation in the inquiry-based exploration and KWHL chart/describing chart.


Math K.III.A.1 Sort, classify and compare objects based on attributes.
Science I.B.1 Observe and describe common objects using simple tools.

References and Resources