In this crafty lesson plan, students make their own insects to learn about the physical characteristics and anatomy of insects.
- Grades: PreK–K
- Unit Plan:
Students explore the world of insects and discover what it might be like to live like one. They create an insect with physical characteristics and demonstrate how it moves. They also compare insects to spiders.
- Examine the physical characteristics of insects: six legs, three body parts, two wings (for some), two eyes, two antennae, skeleton on the outside.
- Contrast insects and spiders.
- Compare how different insects move: jump, fly, crawl, or swim.
- Enough insect photographs for each child, plus a couple of spider pictures
- Magnifying glasses for each student
- Various live (or dead) insects from pet stores or educational supply stores
- Paper egg cartons
- Pipe cleaners (3 of one color; 1 of another) per student
- 2” x 2” pieces of cardstock for each student
- Foil wrap
- Colorful markers
- Clear tape
- Hole punch
- Multiple colors of tempera paint
- Paint brushes
- Paper plates for each student
- Chart paper
- Four hula hoops or rings made of loose string
- Four blank word cards
Set Up and Prepare
- Preview Going Bug-gy! for photo ideas and insect information.
- Cut paper egg cartons into segments of three cups in a row (one per student)
- Cut a 2” x 2” piece of cardstock for each student.
- Cut a 6” x 6” piece of foil for each student.
- Cut and hide pictures of insects and a few spiders throughout the classroom.
- Cover the desks with newspapers and set out various colors of paint for Day 2.
- Write or label student names on the inside of the cut egg cartons.
Step 1: Before the students come in, hide pictures (enough for each student to find one) of insects throughout the room. Set out a couple pictures of spiders as well. Suspend flying insects from the ceiling on strings.
Step 2: If you have a live insect, gather the students in a circle on the carpet. Distribute the magnifying glasses. Tell them that they will be studying insects, bugs, and spiders and that bugs are insects with mouthparts that pierce and suck. Pass around the insect (in a jar or small plastic terrarium) for the students to examine.
Step 3: Ask students to share what they know about insects. Tell them that all around the room are pictures of different kinds of insects. Invite them to find one picture and bring it back to the carpet.
Step 4: When they're finished finding pictures, ask students to turn to a partner and tell about their creature. Encourage them to describe the colors and anything else they notice.
Step 5: Explain that most of them have pictures of insects, but a few have spiders. Ask if anyone knows of any differences between insects and spiders.
Write headings Insects and Spiders on chart paper and sketch each creature underneath the words. As you draw, explain the basic physical characteristics:
Have 3 body parts: head, thorax and abdomen
Have 2 eyes and 2 antennas that help the insect smell, taste, and hear
Middle section (thorax) has powerful muscles that operate wings and six legs
Back section (abdomen) expands when the insect feeds
Have their skeletons on the outside.
Only have 2 body parts: abdomen and cephalothorax (head and thorax together) Growing from the cephalothorax are 8 legs.
Have 8 eyes and 2 pedipalps — leg-like body parts that touch and taste — instead of antennae
Step 6: Ask students to look at their picture and tape it in the correct category on the chart. As they do, ask them if they know the name of the insect. If they don't, name the insects.
Step 1: If you have another live insect to share, pass it around for students to examine with their magnifying glasses. Ask them to recall the different colors, spots, and stripes they may have noticed on the live insects, the pictures, or ones they've seen before. Tell students that today they are going to create their own insect. Distribute the three-cupped egg cartons. Ask students to think about what kind of insect they want to make. Invite them to look at the pictures on the chart. What color will they make their insects? Will they have stripes or spots? Will they have wings?
Step 2: Send students back to their seats and invite them to paint the three body parts of their insect any way they like. Leave time for paint to dry.
Step 3: Gather students together and ask them to share the kind of insect they're creating and what features they need to add.
Step 1: Before students arrive, punch three holes on each side of the center egg carton cup (thorax) and two on either side of the head. Set out three pipe cleaners, 2” x 2” piece of cardstock, and a 6” x 6” inch piece of foil on a paper plate for each student. Set out colored markers, scissors, and glue.
Step 2: Gather students together and ask them to recall the physical characteristics of insects you discussed. Tell them that the holes punched in each insect's thorax will help them create legs by threading the pipe cleaners through them. They can create wings by coloring and cutting them out of foil and gluing them on the thorax. Finally, they can thread another pipe cleaner through the head holes for antennas. They can also draw, cut out, and glue on eyes.
Step 3: Let students create their insects. Let glue dry.
Step 4: Close the lesson by sharing a book about insects. See my booklist for suggestions.
Step 1: Ask students how people move. Accept all answers. Refer them to the pictures on the Insects and Spiders chart from Day 1. Explain that insects move in many ways.
Step 2: Write the following words on word cards with the students: fly, crawl, jump, and swim. Lay four hula hoops on the classroom floor (or create four rings of string) and place a word card in each.
Step 3: Ask students to take one of the insects from the chart and classify how they think that insect might move: fly, crawl, jump, or swim. Assist students where needed.
Step 4: Distribute the students’ insects. Go outdoors and invite students to move their insect in the way they think it might move.
Supporting All Learners
Where appropriate, help students to categorize their insect. Assist students who might have difficulty cutting with scissors.
I have students make spiders in the same way, but they use a two-cup segment from an egg carton. After painting, we punch four holes on each side of the cephalothorax. I place a piece of black construction paper in a large copy paper lid, and the students roll a marble coated with white paint. The trail of the marble creates a web painting on which the spider is mounted.
Encourage students to search for insects in their home or outside with their family. Ask them to collect some in a plastic container to share with the class or draw a picture of it. My students bring in ladybugs, ants, pill bugs, and even cockroaches!
- Make a class sorting chart.
- Create an insect.
- Categorize how an insect moves.
- Did the students classify their insect?
- Did they participate in discussions?
- Did the students include all body parts in their insects?
- How did the students play with their insects?
- Was there enough time for students to be successful?
- What would you do differently?
- Observe how students categorize the insect pictures.
- Do they correctly create the different parts of the insect and correctly demonstrate how the insect moves?