Academic journal article Science and Children

What's Bugging You?

Academic journal article Science and Children

What's Bugging You?

Article excerpt

Byline: Sherri Brown

"Ooh, these things give me the willies, and I am not getting near them." "Wonder what those things are and what they eat?" Statements like these-which often coincide with some high-pitched screams-are typical from my preservice students as they conduct data on "bugs" outdoors. I refer to these invertebrates as "bugs" intentionally because one objective of this lesson is for students to observe and begin to differentiate the common word bug from the specific characteristics of an insect. While I modeled this activity with a group of preservice elementary teachers, it is equally appropriate-and effective-for middle to upper elementary students to develop classification and observation skills.

What Is a Bug?


Explore the topic of ArthropodsEveryone knows what an insect is, or do they? This question may not be as easy to answer as it appears. I created a preassessment worksheet to identify what students know about insects. My worksheet contains pictures of various arthropods, invertebrate animals with hard exoskeletons, segmented bodies, and paired jointed legs. I chose millipedes, centipedes, arachnids, insects, and crustaceans-all organisms we might commonly but incorrectly refer to as "bugs." The website Clipart ETC offers free downloads for teachers, and you can use it to create your own identification worksheet (see Internet Resources). Students circle the graphics they think represent insects and then write a statement as to why they selected those particular graphics.

After the preassessment, I prepare students for an insect-collection excursion using a 5E learning cycle instructional model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (BSCS 1989),

Entomologists for the Day

Engage To engage students, I ask students what type of animal they think is the most common. Most students name various types of vertebrates, such as fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, or birds. After listening to their replies, I share with them these figures from The National Museum of Natural History Bug Info page (see Internet Resources):

Insect numbers verify that they are the most diverse group of organisms. Some 900,000 different kinds of living insects are known;

The number of living species of insects has been estimated to be 30 million. It is estimated that there are 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive; and

There are more than 200 million insects for each human on the planet [and] the world holds 300 pounds of insects for every pound of humans.

And insects are just one class within the phylum Arthropoda!

Next, I preassess students' ability to classify. One suggestion is to use photographs or stuffed animals as models and ask students to complete a chart with the titles "can fly" and "cannot fly." This activity will provide formative data regarding students' ability to classify an item not directly linked to their content knowledge.

If your students need an introduction to classification, engage students by actually modeling classification with something in your classroom, such as the students. Select characteristics that are not socially hurtful to students, such as clothing color or type of shoe (e.g., sneakers, loafers, boots). If your students have studied classification, you may relate this lesson to previous learning.

Figure 1. Constructing the leaf-litter sifter.

Materials for one leaf-litter sifter:

2 stackable plastic containers (35cm x 19cm x 10cm), one with lid

a hot glue gun or super glue

1/4 inch-gauge metal mesh* (371 cm2 per container)

box cutter

wire cutters

*Gauge of mesh will affect the types of invertebrates you collect. If you use smaller gauge mesh you will have less leaf-litter filter through to your collection container; however, you will not be able to collect most beetles, spiders, and/or crickets. …

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