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Teacher Connection
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Mealworm Locomotion

Reprinted from The Wild Times Teacher Connection v2n3, Spring 1997.

Purpose

How do different surfaces affect the distance mealworms travel in 2 minutes?

Materials

  • a variety of surfaces of different textures (sandpaper, cloth, paper, flour, wood, aluminum foil, etc.)
  • 10-12 mealworms per student group
  • nail polish
  • clock or watch with second hand
  • permanent markers

Experiment

Working in collaborative groups, children will test each mealworm on each surface for 2 minutes.

Procedure

Obtain different textured materials. The materials must be large enough (about 12 inches by 14 inches) to allow enough room for the mealworms to move.

Put a different color of nail polish on the back of each mealworm. This will help students distinguish between the mealworms, and will improve their ability to compare observations.

Mark the center of the test material with a small "x".

Place one mealworm on the mark and start timing. Each time the mealworm changes direction, mark a dot on the test material at that spot.

After 2 minutes, remove the mealworm. Connect the dots and measure the total distance the mealworm traveled. Record this data.

Repeat the experiment. Test 10 different worms on each material. Chart the data, and compute the mean average distance mealworms travel on each surface.

Analysis

Compare the mean average distances traveled and the textures of each material.
  • What kind of textures allow mealworms to travel farther?
  • What does this tell you about the anatomy of a mealworm?
  • Were the results consistent?
  • Did all mealworms test the same on a particular surface?
  • What could have contributed to the observed differences?


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