Especially for Educators: “A Nature Walk Activity Inspired by ‘Just a Worm'” by Marie Boyd

Think back to when you were a child and dared to hold a wiggly worm or lifted rocks in search of fishing bait. Worms fascinate despite the EW factor. Marie Boyd’s JUST A WORM can be the beginning of an exploration for kids. Here she shared a nature walk to use with the book. 

Be sure to get in on the GIVEAWAY from Marie for a signed copy of JUST A WORM! Just leave a comment after the post. 

Congratulations to Lori Alexander, winner of THE BRILLIANT CALCULATOR by Jan Lower and illustrated by Susan Reagan! 

A Nature Walk Activity Inspired by JUST A WORM
by Marie Boyd

Boyd, Marie_JUST A WORM coverHi Beth, Thanks so much for having me on your blog! I’m excited to share a nature walk activity and books to pair with my debut book Just a Worm.

In the book, after being called “just a worm” by two kids, Worm embarks on a journey around the garden to prove them wrong. Along the way, Worm encounters other garden creatures that have important qualities. But what can Worm do? What makes Worm special?

I hope that Just a Worm, will encourage young readers to look more closely at the environment around them, consider the power of words, think about the special role that they play in their family or community, and recognize that everyone has something to contribute.

The initial idea for the story came to me while I was on a walk with my family.  My son was upset by seeing a worm on the sidewalk and I told him “It’s just a worm.” I started thinking about how a worm might feel if it could understand my words and that question led to Just a Worm.

When I was working on the illustrations for Just a Worm, I took many walks around my yard and neighborhood to look at and photograph plants. Can you find these plants I took pictures of in Just a Worm?

I made the illustration for Just a Worm out of quilled paper. In addition to referring to photos I took on my walks, I looked at plant matter from my yard as I was creating the illustrations. For example, one of the spreads in the book shows Worm with dandelions.

Just A Worm interior3

When I was working on that spread, I let a few of the dandelions in my yard grow and go to seed. I then pulled them up and carefully took them apart. In fact, I still have pressed dandelion leaves on my craft table. Can you spot them in this photo?


Taking a Nature Walk

Educators and families may want to take young readers on a nature walk after they’ve read Just a Worm. This activity can be adapted for a wide range of ages and is well suited for Earth Day, which is coming up later this month.

Before the Walk

Introduce the walk:

  • Tell the children where you will be walking (e.g., around the school grounds) and what you want them to do while they are walking (e.g., look, listen, smell, and feel)
  • Explain how to stay safe on the walk. For example, some plants are poisonous and should not be touched.
  • Talk with the students about how they will gather information and record their observations (e.g., older children might stop to sketch or take notes or photos and you might write notes or take pictures for younger children)
  • If you are having the children collect samples, talk to them about what they can collect (e.g., small rocks and fallen sticks, leaves, seeds, bark, or flowers) and what they should not collect (e.g., animals (including insects) or parts from living plants). If in doubt, they should ask!

Pass out any supplies for taking notes (e.g., a notebook or a clipboard with paper and a pencil) or photographs (e.g., a camera), sketching, or collecting samples (e.g., a small paper bag). Explain how to use the supplies.

During the Walk

Ask the students while you are walking and be sure to stop to observe, record, and collect information.

  • What do you see? (e.g., Do you see any insects? Any clouds?)
  • What do you hear? (e.g., Do you hear any birds? Any leaves?)
  • What do you smell? (e.g., Can you smell flowers?)
  • What do you feel? (e.g., Can you feel the sun? Wind?)
  •  What do you think? (e.g., If they see a seed, what type of plant do they think it is from?)

Ask students to point out things that capture their interest and ask follow-up questions.

For younger students let them see you recording their observations.

After the Walk

Have each child examine the things that they collected.

  • Have them count the items they collected and sort the items by categories (e.g., seeds, rocks, and leaves), type (e.g., maple leaves and elm leaves), or color.

Have each child compare what they collected with what another child collected.

  • Did they collect any of the same things? Any different things?

Talk with the children about how they can use their notes, field sketches, photographs, and samples to remember what they observed.

Older kids can research the things they collected (e.g., using a plant or rocks and mineral field guide). If they are unable to identify what they have collected, talk with them about what additional information they might collect next time.

Have children write about, draw, and/or quill an object they observed on the walk.

  • For example, kids might try their hand at quilling the petals of a flower or the body of an insect and then draw the other parts. The backmatter in Just a Worm includes a butterfly quilling craft for kids and I share more craft ideas on my website at, including a video tutorial for easy quilled snails.

Have each child read their writing to another child or explain their drawing or quilling.

Just A Worm interior5

Additional Reading

Books about community gardening, such as Harlem Grown by Tony Hillery, and Green Green: A Community Gardening Story by Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba, pair well with Just a Worm as do books about how children can help care for the planet like Dear Earth . . . From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey. Readers who want to learn more about worms, may want to read a nonfiction book about worms, like Worms by Robin Nelson.

Marie Boyd Garden PhotoDon’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of JUST A WORM! (US addresses only, please. Winner announced 4/14/23)

About the Author/Illustrator

Marie studied chemistry in college and is a law professor. She loves spending time outside, cooking, and—of course—writing and quilling! She currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her family. You can connect with Marie and sign up for her newsletter on her website

16 thoughts on “Especially for Educators: “A Nature Walk Activity Inspired by ‘Just a Worm'” by Marie Boyd

  1. I’ve had the same thoughts before when ‘it’s just a squirrel’ popped into my head. Congratulations on your book! It looks wonderful and shares an important concept(s).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the interview–I love how your book was inspired by a nature walk. I enjoy walking and hiking and observing nature around me too. Your art is so beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Books that inspire students to thoughtfully observe/investigate the world around them are always on my must-read/share list. I am confident this book will be a perfect addition to our elementary library collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! This book is on my TBR list. I find myself attracted to the textures provided by the quilled paper. And such a great activity to pair with this beautiful book. (I’m also admiring that awesome organizer you have at your work table, Marie) Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my goodness, this book is so amazing! I love all of the suggested activities, too! Thank you! I can’t wait to use them in Library! 🤩

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.