Monday, 25 June 2007

Worming my way out of trouble

I was 17 years old. After attending Teachers' College for a few weeks I was now going on 'teaching round', into a real classroom with real children. It was a very intimidating situation—and what was even more intimidating was the daily allocation of teaching tasks set for us by the teacher each afternoon for the following day. Because it was a primary school we were asked to teach on any subject. We had to be instant experts.
I remember one of my first lessons was 'nature study' and I was asked to give a lesson on the topic of earthworms. Now I grew up on a farm and was very familiar with worms. I knew exactly where to find them when I wanted to go fishing for eels. I knew how big they were and their shape and colour. But their life cycle? Zero.
The classroom teacher rescued me from my ignorance. He produced Australian Nature Studies by J. A. Leach, and I and the students learnt a lot about worms. (Reading it now though, I wonder if Leach is right about one thing. He says "If it be cut in two, each half grows the missing portion.")

Several years ago I came across the book in a secondhand bookshop and bought it. It's in quite good condition and the remains of the original paper cover have been pasted on to the hard cover, front and back. I have a lot of reference books on my bookshelf now but it's amazing how many times I refer to Leach.
Apparently there are over 1000 species of worms in Australia and about 80 of these are introduced. Very few species of worms can live in agricultural ground (the insecticides and fungicides are a problem) so if you want to find an Australian native worm you have to look in the woodlands and forests. Darwin thought worms were tremendously important so perhaps I should be paying them more attention.

1 comment:

Duncan said...

I have my childhood copy of Leach in the bookcase Lorraine, and still refer to it often.