Thursday, July 26, 2007

Worm Watch

What does No Impact Man do for fun? Apparently, he watches red wiggler worms eat his garbage. A bin full of annelids turns his kitchen waste into compost right there in his Manhattan apartment, much to the delight of NID (No Impact Daughter—age 2). His helpful posts give directions on how to set up your own kitchen compost bin so you can watch, too.

But what if you want to know more about your slimy new pets? Garden writer Amy Stewart gives you the underground scoop on life in the dirt in The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms. Stewart visits Australia’s Giant Worm Museum, sewage treatment plants, and her own backyard to keep the narrative lively enough to read aloud by the bin. Or listen to her public radio interview with Diane Rehm if you’re pressed for reading time.

My favorite section of The Earth Moved talks about one of the more eccentric-sounding phases of Charles Darwin’s long & fruitful scientific life—his earthworm years. Darwin kept worms on an old billiard table and played bassoon to them, testing their auditory responses. His final book was the surprise best seller: The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits, which you can find at Darwin Online. The site also has transcriptions of the pocket diaries of Darwin’s wife in case you want to know what Emma Darwin thought about Charles’ worms.

There are books to read, too, if you, like NIM, have young eyes worm watching with you. A simple but accurate book small enough for preschool-sized hands is Tunneling Earthworms, by Suzanne Dell’Oro. Earthworms, by Lola Schaefer, is for early elementary readers, ready for more terminology and detail. For kids eager for more active investigations of worm behavior and ecology, check out Wormology, by Michael Elsohn Ross. There, kids can read for themselves about Darwin’s wacky worm experiments and find directions for some of their own.

And if you just want a whimsical storybook with a spineless, wriggly hero, get Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin. My kids laugh out loud at Cronin’s typing cows in Click, Clack, Moo, and her hokey-pokey dancing worm isn’t far behind. True, real earthworms don’t wear baseball caps, but sometimes anthropomorphizing in the name of fun is ok by me. Kids (or teachers) intrigued by the story to dig deeper will appreciate enrichment activities available from Diary's publisher, HarperCollins,

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