My son’s first-grade teacher called me at 8:45 a.m. recently – a before-school call from the teacher is never a good sign – and desperately asked for my help with a “worm emergency.”
“What kind of emergency?” I asked.
“Before you come to volunteer today, can you pick up some worms?” she asked.
“Uhhh… what for? What kind of worms do you need?”
She thinks I can send Eddie to elementary school, drive Carla to preschool, find a bait shop and get myself to school on time in 30 minutes?
It turns out they were studying worms, and that day they were using them in science experiments. They would test to see if the worms preferred warm or cold, wet or dry and rough or smooth. Her worm stash hadn’t fared so well overnight, and I was that day’s scheduled parent volunteer.
“It’s not going to be a lot of fun for the worms,” Mrs. S. explained. “Just regular earthworms will do.”
“No problem!” I told her. “I’ve got a compost bin that’s loaded with worms. My kids love playing with them. How many do you need?”
I could hear her thinking “eeeeeeyew,” but all she said was that 15 or so would do.
“I’ll bring you two dozen. See you in half an hour.”
Once I reached the classroom, with worms in tupperware happily ensconced in some half-rotted vegetables, Mrs. S informed me that I was doing all the worm handling. She wrinkled her nose as I grinned down at my little martyrs for science. I handed out three worms to each group, which was supposed to figure out how to tell them apart and name them Worm A, B and C. The kids named them things like Burpy.
The worms went through their paces on a plastic plate as the kids saw if they crawled toward or away from an ice pack and a wet paper towel, for example, to check warm/cold and wet/dry preferences. To see if the worms liked dark or light, the kids put a folded piece of black construction paper on top of the critters and waited to see if they would come out.
Now really, if you were being manhandled by a bunch of 7-year-olds, what would you do?
To the teacher’s astonishment (and mine) all worms were accounted for – and alive – 45 minutes later when it was time to leave for music class. I even had enough spare worms to give extras to the first-grade teacher across the hall whose worms were, in her words, “a little tired this morning.”
My worms had done a yeoman’s duty, and I liberated them in the azaleas on my way out.