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the earthworms were doing. The students described color and shape; they weighed and measured the earthworms and kept a large chart of the class data, which provoked a discussion about variation. They observed and described how the earthworms moved on a surface and in the soil. Questions and ideas about the earthworms came up continually. Ms. F. recorded these thoughts on a chart, but she kept the students focused on their descriptive work. Then Ms. F. turned to what else the children might want to find out about earthworms and how they might go about doing so. Among the many questions on the chart were: How do the earthworms have babies? Do they like to live in some kinds of soil better than others? What are those funny things on the top of the soil? Do they really like the dark? How do they go through the dirt? How big can an earthworm get?
Ms. F. let all the questions flow in a discussion, and then she asked the students to divide into groups and to see if they could come up with a question or topic that they would like to explore. When the class reconvened, each group shared what they were going to explore and how they might investigate the topic. The students engaged in lively discussion as they shared their proposed explorations. Ms. F. then told the students that they should think about how they might conduct their investigations and that they would share these ideas in the next class.
A week later, the investigations were well under way. One group had chosen to investigate the life cycle of earthworms and had found egg cases in the soil. While waiting for baby earthworms to hatch, they had checked books about earthworms out of the library. They had also removed several very young (very small) earthworms from the terrarium and were trying to decide how they might keep track of the growth.
Two groups were investigating what kind of environment the earthworms liked best. Both were struggling with several variables at once—moisture, light, and temperature. Ms. F. planned to let groups struggle before suggesting that students focus on one variable at a time. She hoped they might come to this idea on their own.
A fourth group was trying to decide what the earthworms liked to eat. The students had been to the library twice and now were ready to test some foods.
The last two groups were working on setting up an old ant farm with transparent sides to house earthworms, because they were interested in observing what the earthworms actually did in the soil and what happened in different kinds of soil.
In their study of earthworms, Mrs. F.'s students learned about the basic needs of animals, about some of the structures and functions of one animal, some features of animal behavior, and about life cycles. They also asked and answered questions and communicated their understandings to one another. They observed the outdoors and used the library and a classroom well equipped to teach science.
Marking the culmination of a three-year, multiphase process, on April 10th, 2013, a 26-state consortium released the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a detailed description of the key scientific ideas and practices that all students should learn by the time they graduate from high school.