The soil under our feet is an amazing ecosystem, teeming with life; it is so ordinary-seeming that we often take it for granted. In fact, the world below the ground is essential for life above. From the tiniest soil microbes to the fattest groundhogs, the creatures that live under the ground have a profound effect on how well plants can grow. Since all human beings depend on plants for food, shelter, air to breathe and clothes to wear, we have a very vested interest in learning about and protecting our soil and all the animals that live in it.
One of our favorite programs is about just that. In Worms: Our Composting Friends, we teach students about the importance of the underground ecosystem, focusing on worms and the role they play in fertilizing and aerating the soil. This two-hour field trip is broken down into a classroom portion and a tour.
In the classroom, we explore the components of soil and get up close and personal with worms from our vermicompost bin. Students compare worm anatomy to their own and learn how a worm’s body is adapted to its environment. They learn why worms are slimy (the slime on their skin helps worms to breathe and move) and how they can see without eyes (they navigate by sensing vibrations in the ground). They also handle some worms and look for prominent anatomical features, as well as watch them move to understand their muscles. By shining a flashlight through a worm’s body, students can observe its digestive tract, built to eat vegetation and the tiny microbes that live on soil particles. Finally, we talk about how worms excrete nutritious worm castings for plants to eat and aerate the soil to allow plant roots to grow.
The tour portion of the program consists of a self-guided or docent-lead tour of the Conservatory. Those who would prefer a self-guided experience may request a PDF of our self-guided tour or explore on their own. Those who choose the docent-lead tour will learn about the history of the Conservatory and the plants of our tropical and desert biomes, as well as the soil we use to grow them.
If you are a teacher and would like more information on how to sign up for this or any other school program, please use the “Registering for Programs” link in the menu above. Please note that scout groups, home school groups and other groups of 10 or more may sign up for any of our school programs as well. Groups that book programs for September 1-December 31 are also eligible for our 25% off fall discount.