Why teach about insects?

You probably already teach about animals and their habitats – why should you teach about insects in particular?

Insects and other small animals are a key part in any food chain, a subject your students will study in 4th grade science. Knowing about them and having respect for insects now will help them better appreciate insects’ importance later.

If you are interested in a great game that combines food chains with human impact on the environment, check out the game Deadly Links in an educational guide produced by the Girl Scouts (scroll to page 18). This role play examines the relationship between three animals (mosquito, fish, eagle) and what happens when human beings try to get rid of the mosquitoes. Deadly Links is appropriate for grades 4+ in its current form, but could easily be adapted for younger students.

Little kids might not be ready to learn about food chains, but they're always welcome to come to Brooklyn Children's Museum and build an insect of their own!

Amazing Arthropods

In the educator’s guide, My Green Community, we have a section focusing on insects. Students build a pitfall to humanely trap insects, observe them, learn basic insect anatomy, and sing a song to reinforce the new words they have learned.

Due to space constraints, we didn’t get into the difference between arthropods and insects. So let’s break it down here.

Arthropods are a sub-group of invertebrates (animals with no backbone). Arthropods, then, are divided into their own subgroups:

  • Insects (cricket; bee and wasp; butterfly and moth; cicada; ant; grasshopper; praying mantis; firefly, ladybug and every kind of beetle)
  • Arachnids (tick; mite; scorpion; spider including tarantula)
  • Crustaceans (all kinds of crab; lobster; shrimp; crawdad; barnacle; pill bug also called roly poly)
  • Other! (like centipede and millipede)

All of those animals are arthropods and they all have two things in common: jointed legs (legs that can bend) and an exoskeleton (their skeleton is on the outside of their bodies). What makes an insect different from other arthropods?

A section from the educator's guide

Insects, in addition to jointed legs and an exoskeleton, have a body divided into three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen.

And that’s enough for now! Check back over the next few days for more insect and arthropod activities…