Other Learning Modules
Other learning modules that were created by HHMI interns can be found atthis page.
Earthworm Behavior Labs
General Earthworm Behaviors
This lesson plan allows students to observe the behavior of a living earthworm when it is presented with different stimuli. The provided plan leads students through the lab step-by-step, but it can easily be adapted to allow students to work more independently by designing their own experiment.
Earthworms' Response to Vibration
In this lab, students are asked to observe and measure an earthworm's response to vibration. This ties in to an interesting practice called "worm grunting" where earthworms are lured out of the ground with vibrations to use as fish bait. After the lab, students can be asked to consider why such a behavior is adaptive.
Image courtesy of Martin Berube
Human Behavior Project
Students may also have the option to complete an independent study in human behavior. There are many possible ways this can be organized, and different schools will need different rules and boundaries. One possibility is that students design an experiment where they must observe people without talking to them or interfering with them in any way. For example, students can observe a certain behavior in two different settings and then analyze their data to find if there is any difference. In more advanced classes students can do a statistical analysis to find if their results are statistically significant.
Example of possible experiment
Question: Do people walk faster outside or inside?
Hypothesis: People will walk faster outside.
Experiment: We chose two areas to observe walking speed: one experimental group was measured indoors, and one was measured outdoors. We measured and marked 200 feet of a straight, level path and measured how long it took passing walkers to walk the length of it. When there was too much traffic to measure the speed of every walker, we recorded the speed of every fifth person. We did this until we had thirty measurements for each of the experimental groups.
After recording their results, students can present their findings to the class with a poster, lab report, or short oral presentation. This project could be adapted into a classroom exercise by designating a few student volunteers as the experimental groups. They can be given instructions on how to act in certain circumstances, and the rest of the class must conduct short experiments to figure out the "rules" of their behavior.
This project or activity would allow students to design an experiment and draw a conclusion from their data. Some students will only get a negative result, that is, they find that there is no significant difference in the behavior of humans under two different circumstances. But negaive results are just as common in "real" research, and they are important to use as part of a process of elimination when scientists are searching for an answer. Lots of hypotheses have to be proved wrong before a lucky researcher finds the correct explanation.