Let our eight-legged and other insect friends inspire some science fun.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
Science focus: The five senses
What to do: Honeybees use pheromones to tell if other honeybees are part of their hive, so invite students to practice their own olfactory skills. First, place several drops of various essential oils on cotton balls. Seal each cotton ball in a plastic sandwich bag. Next, give each child a bag to open and sniff. Encourage them to use their noses to find their "hive" (the other children with the same odor).
What Do Ants Eat?
Science focus: Animal diets
What to do: Here's an easy experiment that reveals what ants like to eat. First, place several small samples of foods on a paper plate, such as sugar, carrots, bread, cheese, and fruit slices. Next, have the students predict which food or foods will attract the most ants. Place the paper plate on the ground outside. After waiting an hour, return and observe which food has the most ants near or crawling on it.
Science focus: Symmetry in nature
What to do: Symmetry can be found many places in nature, including butterflies. To demonstrate this phenomenon, have students draw one half of a butterfly. Next, give them a small mirror and invite them to hold it perpendicular to their picture to create a mirror butterfly. Challenge students to be "Symmetry Spies" for the day and find examples of symmetry around them.
Science focus: Patterns in nature
What to do: Have each student use a paper cup (or similar object) to trace a dozen circles on a large piece of colored construction paper. Help children cut the circles out. Next, ask them to use a hole punch to put a hole in the middle of each circle. Have each table or team of kids combine their circles into a group pile. Provide a pipe cleaner for each child. Direct students to use the circles to create color patterns and then to carefully poke the pipe cleaner through several circles before connecting with the next pipe cleaner to make a caterpillar. Add google eyes.
Science focus: Survival strategies
What to do: Spiders use their webs to catch prey. But how do spiders crawl across their webs and not get caught themselves? They have a special oil on their legs. Here's an easy way to show students how this works. Place a piece of contact paper sticky side up on the table. Now, use yarn to create a spider web. Tell the kids to pretend their fingers are spider legs and to try to "walk" across the web. They will stick to it. Next, have students dip their fingers in vegetable oil and do the same experiment-and they will see how much easier it is!
Science focus: Observation, predicting
What to do: Place a collection of plastic flies in the science or math area. Plastic flies can often be found at party or craft stores. Encourage students to place 10 to 20 flies in a cup, shake the cup and then dump the flies on the table. Ask them to count and record how many flies are "dead," or legs up, and how many are "alive," or legs down. Challenge them to predict how many flies will be dead or alive in later throws.
Science focus: Camouflage
What to do: Discuss how insects use camouflage to protect themselves from enemies. Share photos of insects such as the katydid, brimstone butterfly, grasshopper, and walking stick (see Big Book of Bugs by Theresa Greenaway). Next, have students use brown pipe cleaners to make their own walking sticks. You can use one pipe cleaner to fashion a body and head. Then, twist three other pipe cleaners around the body to create six legs. Add smaller pieces to create antennae. When the walking sticks are ready, go outside, hide them in a bush or tree, and see if their camouflage works.