Worm Dissection (by Mrs. Shutts)

“Ewww! I am not touching the worm!” a student told me the week before the dissection. Yet the day of, the same student decided that the worm was too interesting to pass up. Every year 6th graders get the amazing opportunity to dissect an earthworm as we start our unit on the Animal Kingdom. For many students, this is their first chance to dissect a preserved organism and to learn about this deceptively complex invertebrate in a hands-on, collaborative way. This is one of my favorite days of the year as I watch students’ faces fill with excitement as they explore the worm. I always encourage students to have spaghetti for dinner the night of the dissection and many of them were grossed out this year to learn I had spaghetti leftovers as my lunch that day. Ask any current or former 6th grader and they will be able to tell you about this unique experience. It is especially fun because 6th graders are given the privilege to use the Middle School Science Lab for the first time. 

Students instantly assume the role of a biologist as they carefully cut the worm open with a scalpel to explore the organs inside. Immediately, junior high surgeons are born and they can imagine their future as a scientist. The classroom fills with a quiet concentration as students work in pairs to identify the various parts of the worm. Students are always amazed to discover that a worm has a heart, brain, esophagus and other organs just like we do. Students are provided valuable practice in working with others and thinking critically to locate the worm’s organs. Many of the skills students learn will be applicable outside of the classroom, even if students do not grow up to be scientists. It is an experience that is not long forgotten.