Volume 12, Issue 15 ~ April 8-14, 2004
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Not Just for Kids

Earthworms: Our Pals in the Soil
By Carrie Steele

At first, earthworms might seem wiggly, crawly and maybe a little creepy. But earthworms are actually very neat critters, and they are truly our pals in the soil.
How does such a small, wiggly, eyeless critter move through dark soil? Earthworms are excellent burrowers, with tiny muscles that lengthen and shorten to move around. If you’ve ever held an earthworm in your hand, you’ve seen how it stretches forward and then pulls itself in to find its way back to the soil. Earthworms move in this slinky way, but earthworms are definitely not creepy!

Earthworms actually help us grow plants and food. How?

  1. They help air move through the soil and reach plant roots. By making their way through the dirt, earthworms create passageways for air to get into the soil.

  2. They break down humus, dead plant material like dried up leaves and rotting wood. Turning humus into a rich soil helps plants get the right nutrients. Plants need nutrients like people need vitamins!

Ever wonder why on rainy days, earthworms wind up on sidewalks and driveways? Earthworms don’t have lungs or gills. They breathe through their skin. So when the ground fills up with rainwater, earthworms retreat above ground, where water washes them away from their soil homes. On rainy spring days, help an earthworm out by gently moving it onto soil or grass with a twig.

A Wriggly Experiment
Watch an earthworm at work!

For this activity, you’ll need: a clear quart-sized jar, humus (brown leaves, twigs, or dead plant matter), soil from two different places (from the woods, a garden or beside a building), sand and a few earthworms.

Put about two inches of sand in the bottom of the jar. Then layer two inches of one of your soils, followed by two inches of the other soil. Spread your humus at the top.

Drop in your earthworms and cover the top with netting or thin cloth and wrap black construction paper around the jar to keep it dark, like underground. The next few days, remove the black paper to see how your hard-working earthworms have tunneled and mixed up the different layers of soil!

Be sure to return the earthworms to the ground outside, so they can continue helping plants outside.

Word Attraction
Humus, a Latin word meaning earth or ground, is the dark brown soil made from decaying leaves, trees and animals.

Earthworms and tiny bacteria help turn the dead leaves on the forest floor into nutrient-rich humus, which is good food for living plants. On your next stroll through the woods, look for dark brown humus just under the fallen leaves.

Kids Calendar

Friday, April 9
Flumpa and Friends
April 9, 10 & 11-Travel on a rainbow, cheer on your favorite amphibian, swim in the ocean and hop like a frog with songs and facts by Wendy Whitten, the Singing Scientist, and Flumpa, the World’s Favorite Tree Frog. Shows daily: 11am, 11:30am and 1pm @ Baltimore Zoo, Druid Park Lake Dr., Baltimore. $12 w/age discounts includes Zoo admission: 410-396-7102.

Friday, April 10
Peter Rabbit Party
Kids 10 and under make a holiday craft and have photos taken with Peter Rabbit at this Easter party. 10-11:30am @ Bowie Community Center, 3209 Stoneybrook Dr., Bowie. $3 w/resident discounts; rsvp:
301-464-1737 • www.pgparks.com.

Flumpa and Friends
See April 9.

Sunday, April 11
Flumpa and Friends
See April 9.

Monday, April 12
Dinosaur Hunt
Kids 2-5 bring a basket to a teeny-weeny dinosaur egg hunt. 10am @ Southern Community Center, Appeal Ln. (off Rt. 765), Lusby. free; rsvp: 410-586-1101.

Flashlight Egg Hunt
Kids 11-15 grab your friends, a flashlight and a bag to collect eggs filled with candy and prizes. 7:30pm @ Southern Community Center, Appeal Ln. (off Rt. 765), Lusby. free; rsvp: 410-586-1101.

Beaver Watch
Hunt through Spa Creek Conservancy for signs of our dam-building friends. 10am @ Chesapeake Children’s Museum, 25 Silopanna Rd., Annapolis. free: 410-990-1993.

Tuesday, April 13
For a hopping good time, read about Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare from Guess How Much I Love You . 10am @ Barnes and Noble, Harbour Center, Annapolis. free: 410-573-1115.

Wednesday, April 14
Beaver Watch
See April 12. Today, 6:30pm.

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Last updated April 8, 2004 @ 12:59am.