Earthworm innards at the Wohl Reach Out Lab

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by fellow Soil Biodiversity Group member (and termite fan) Fez to help with earthworm dissections at the Wohl Reach Out Lab where she works. My first thought was panic! Although I know quite a lot about the outsides of earthworms, other than a dissection back in school I have done little on internal anatomy. Nevertheless I prepared by watching YouTube videos on earthworm dissections and re-reading the Earthworm Synopsis by Sims and Gerard.

The Wohl Reach Out Lab is part of Imperial College and provides a space for educational activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for young people. Undergraduates and postgraduate students have the opportunity to work with young people on one-day STEM activities as well as week-long residential and non-residential summer courses. They also support running your own outreach events for school children and manage the Reaching Further programme to link early career researchers (like me!) to schools – more about that in another post!

The earthworm dissection was not as difficult as I thought and I was able to see most of the organs from the diagrams I found online and in my books. The Reach Out team seemed more confident after watching the dissection and I was able to pass on interesting facts about earthworms.

Victoria and Earthworm dissection
Me with my Earthworm dissection

The earthworm dissection was practice for an event the next day when Sky TV was visiting to film the Reach Out Lab’s champion Lord Robert Winston meeting with schoolchildren to discuss science and dissect earthworms. I came along to watch the filming and ended up leading the activity, demonstrating dissecting the earthworm and then assisting with questions from the students.

Dissected earthworm
Dissected earthworm

Being filmed was terrifying but also fun and exciting! The dissection was projected onto a large screen using a visualiser which also had a camera attached for close ups of me making the incision, lifting the organs out and pointing them out. The students were also really keen and asked lots of great questions on earthworms. I’m not sure how much of me will be in the final video, and I don’t have Sky TV anyway, but it was a great experience. It was also lovely to get to know other members of the Reach Out Lab and I am looking forward to working with them again in the future.

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