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Lesson Plan

Decomposers with a focus on worms

Summary: 
Look for animals outside, or in soil brought into the classroom. Discuss the role of decomposers in the food chain. Then look closely at red wiggler worms, or other small garden worms, before using them to start an indoor worm compost bin.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Classification of Living Things, Biodiversity (1, 3)
Biology: Life Cycles (2)
Biology: Food Webs, Ecosystems, Biomes (3, 4)
Curriculum connection (2005 science topic): 
Earth and Space Science: Air, Water and Soil (grade 2)
Life Science: Characteristics of Living Things (grade K)
Life Science: Needs of Living Things (grade 1)
Life Science: Animal Growth and Changes (grade 2)
Life Science: Habitats and Communities (grade 4)
Life Science: Diversity of Life (grade 6)
Life Science: Ecosystems (grade 7)
Procedure: 

Either start the lesson with a walk outside to find worms and other animals in the soil: decomposer hunt activity.
Or look for animals in soil brought into the classroom: soil habitat study activity.
Discuss how these decomposers are critical to the food chain, as they eat dead plant and animal matter and turn them into rich soil, containing simpler nutrients to be used by plants and other organisms.
(Or just start with the discussion.)

Then look at one of these decomposers, worms, more closely: Observe worms closely (including any found outdoors).

End by setting up a habitat for decomposers in the classroom:Set up worm bin. Optional: add other decomposers, e.g. wood bugs, to it.

Optional: visit school compost bin outside.

Notes: 

At the New York After School Program (The School at Columbia), students just looked into an already established worm compost rather than building their own. They looked at worms closely, then fed the worms in the compost bin.

Grades tested: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 6
Teacher: 
Anke Barabulea
Barbara Duncan
Bernard Wan
Carole Murray
Christy Wong
Ingrid
Kathryn Mazzone
Kecia Boecking
Mari Matsuo
Monika Pilat
Natasha Tousaw
Patricia Ellis
Site tested: 
General Gordon Elementary
McBride Elementary
Laurier Elementary
After School Program at Elementary schools in New York City
Selkirk Elementary
Sexsmith Elementary
Simon Fraser Elementary
Lesson plan originally developed and delivered: 

Gordon Elementary classroom