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Why Are Earthworms Slimy?

I went for a hike recently and was amazed at all the worms and night crawlers on the road. I wondered why they came out to die like that. I picked one up and wondered why it was slimy. So when I got home, I googled "Nightcrawler" and found nothing but links to movies and videos. It wasn't until I got to page five that I found anything about Earthworms. I guess that's a reflection on how important Nature is versus "a pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles." I did learn that "Nightcrawler" or "Night Crawler" shouldn't be capitalized because they are the not names of the slimy things. The real name is "Jake Gyllenhaal" -- just kidding, that's the name of the nocturnal journalist with a slimy underbelly. The real—and capitalized—name is "Earthworm." Why are they slimy? So they can slip into the world of L.A. crime unnoticed. I mean, "Their skin needs to be moist to breathe. That’s because earthworms breathe through their skin. Also, moist skin makes it easier for earthworms to move through their burrows. If an earthworm dries out, it will die." Why do worms come out when it rains? Because crime scenes in L.A. are always misty and rainy and each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Oops! Worms come out when it rains because "It’s believed that they come out because their burrows are flooded, and the water is no longer fresh."

Finding an earthworm at Marbles Farm will be the start of a learning experience. Here are some questions about worms that can start a fun discussion and might lead to researching the answers after returning to the indoor class:

Do earthworms bite people?

Why does a worm's skin sometimes feel rough?

If an earthworm breaks in two, does it really become two worms?

How long do earthworms live?

Which animals eat worms?

What is the most dangerous thing to earthworms?

Where do earthworms go in the winter?

What is that fat lump on the worm's body?

Where do baby worms come from?

What type of worm is in a "wormy" apple?

Are there other types of worms?

Why don't we see more worms outside during the day?

How can you tell which end is the worm's head?

Do worms have a top side and a bottom side?

Does it hurt a worm to be put on a fishing hook?

How can one little worm really help in a big garden?

It's not hard to see how something as common as finding an earthworm can turn into a thoughtful lesson with lots of participation from children. Having in depth conversations is one of the great benefits of getting outdoors. Getting outdoors with a skilled teacher is what children will do at Marbles Farm.

*Worm questions from "Wonderful Worms", by Linda Glaser

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