In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about insects. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Insects topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.
Find out what your state’s official insect is and learn about its appearance and behavior. What does it look like? Does it have wings? Where is it usually found? How does it stay safe in its habitat? What does it do during the winter? Research information about the insect online. Then go to a local park and have students try to find the insect. Make sure students understand they should not handle the insect or disturb it in any way. They can write down their observations or sketch pictures. They can also take photos. If students find other insects in their search, have them take notes and then look up the species at the library or on the Internet. Then have students share what they found!
Field of View
Review with students that compound eyes are made up of tiny parts that point in different directions. This allows insects to see more of their surroundings at one time. They have a wider field of view than humans. Demonstrate this concept by having students go outside to an open area with few obstacles. Have students work in pairs. One student can take two pieces of dark paper and hold them up to the sides of their eyes, like blinders. Have the student observe and describe their surroundings to a partner, who can take notes. What is the farthest thing to the left and to the right the student can see? Then have the pairs walk around carefully. Is it harder to navigate when the field of vision is limited? Why or why not? You may want to have other students come up behind the student with the blinders. At what point did the student figure out there was someone standing near them? Why might having a wide field of view be helpful?
Discuss ant colonies with your students. Remind them that each ant in a colony has a specific job. Some ants just care for eggs, while others collect food. Some ants only repair the nest, and the queen’s job is to lay eggs. Why might living in a colony be helpful for insects like ants? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? Then have students imagine their own human colony. What would it be like? How would people work together? Have them write a paragraph or draw pictures and then share their work with the class.
How My Garden Grows
If possible, grow flowers, vegetables, or other plants with your child. If growing a garden isn’t possible, you can create an outdoor window box by cutting up milk cartons or jugs. Have your child observe the plants as they grow and learn which insects are harmful and beneficial to the plant. For example, aphids might hurt the plant’s leaves, but ladybugs will eat aphids and control the aphid population to help keep the plant healthy. Research other plants that lure beneficial insects to your home garden. If possible, grow the plants in your garden or window box. How might farmers use insects to keep their crops healthy? Discuss with your child.
Remind your child that insects are found on every continent. As cold-blooded animals, insects have special ways to control their body temperatures. How does an insect survive the snowy Arctic winters? Have your child predict how an insect might survive extreme weather. Research insects that live in extreme climates, such as hot, arid deserts and the freezing tundra. What adaptations do the insects have? Your child can create insect cards and draw pictures and write facts about each specimen.