Outdoor Activities and Science: Insect Nets
Children are fascinated by bugs. Help them observe these tiny critters close up and in person!
- Grades: PreK–K
Children will develop observation skills as they explore nature.
- An insect reference book
- Old pairs of pantyhose or stockings, one "leg" per child
- Three heavy cardboard discs about three inches across per child
Take a walk around your playground, or to a park. As you or the children notice an insect or spider, gather the group together to observe it. Ask questions such as, "What do you think it's doing?" Use an insect reference book and help children look for a picture of a similar insect. Read them the name and then move on, reminding children how important it is to take extra care not to disturb the insect or its surroundings.
- Put out the cardboard discs and pantyhose.
- Help children cut the legs off the pantyhose.
- Give each child an opportunity to cut lengths of string about two feet long.
- Hold the pantyhose legs toe down and help children stuff one cardboard disc to create a "floor" for their net. The disc should sit at the toe of the pantyhose leg.
- Stuff a second disc about halfway down the pantyhose leg.
- Use the third disc for the roof of the net.
- Tie the excess hose in a knot over the third disc.
- Cut a slit just big enough for a child's hand to fit through in a section just above the floor of the net.
- Children can hang their nets from hangers, low tree limbs, and outdoor climber bars using the lengths of string.
- Invite one or two children each day to carry their nets outdoors. Emphasize that you will find bugs, but keep them only for a short while and then let them go.
- When children find an interesting creature, such as an ant or caterpillar, help them carefully place it and some of its surroundings through the slit in the side of their net.
- Invite everyone to watch the insects during the day. Notice close up how they move, eat, and look. Look for their eyes, mouth, feet, wings, or other body parts. Use the insect guide to identify the names of insects.
- When it is time to let your visitors free, be sure to take them back to the area where you originally found them.
For younger children: Provide plastic bugs children can examine to learn more about insects. Encourage children to talk about where they may have seen some of these bugs.
For older children: Have children compare and contrast the different bugs they discover. How are their movements/colorings/body shapes similar or different?
Observation: Which children are comfortable hunting for and collecting bugs? Which children seem squeamish or uncomfortable around the insects you discover?
Spin-Off: Draw Your Friend
After children free their insects, they might enjoy recreating that insect using craft material. Place a few sticks, rocks, leaves, or other natural items in the nets with a drawing of an insect and hang them in your science center for an interesting bug zoo.