Insect Safari with Kindergarten and 1st graders: Notes and Tips

Pitfall Trap

Friday we had insect club with 15 Kindergarten and first graders.

The plan was to have the kids dig pitfall traps and then hunt for insects. We did both of these things, but the outcomes were different than expected.

I’ll make some observations and then suggest changes for the next outing.

Observation One: Kids love to dig.

In fact, they were more interested in digging and playing, than in finding insects, though they did find insects.

While digging a hole for a trap (really just a cup in the ground), one student dug into a nest of ants.  Squeals of excitement prevailed as hundreds of ants swarmed on the ground.

“Gross,” said Joanie.

“Cool” said John.

” I don’t like bugs,”  said George.

Now that we had some insects to watch, the plan was to see what insects liked to eat. We had apples, peanut butter, jelly, bread, and some lettuce. I tossed a little on the ground and I explained the project. They were not impressed.

Observation 2: The kids were more interested in tossing food on the ground and playing with containers than watching what the insects ate.

One boy placed a variety of containers on the ground upside down directly on the ant hill.  I asked him what the cups were for and he said they were to catch the ants. The ants did crawl up side the cups, but afterward, John wasn’t at all interested in picking up the cups after the insects were inside. This was interesting. He just liked looking at them and playing with the containers.

General observation wasn’t the objective of this lesson, but that’s what happened. As a teacher, sometimes lessons don’t go as planned. Flexibility is key.

A few kids did get their pitfall traps into the ground. We’ll go back to the traps this week and see if any insects fell into them. To find out how to make one go to http://insects.about.com/od/entomologytools/ht/byopitfalltrap.htm.  These traps are simple and fun to make. I’ll report next week how the older kids liked making them.

The safari went okay, though three kids opted out. They were hot and didn’t really like the insects. The kids that went each had a container for their insects. They really liked having their own container. I expected to find a lot of Japanese beetles, but we only found one. The kids thought this was cool, but it’s hard to show off just one beetle to 12 kids.  And of course, they all wanted to take it home.

Here are my suggestions for the next time:

1) Pick a New Location: We did our digging along a rain garden near a bike path. We had about 5 kids that did not look before crossing the bike path. This meant that me and my co-teacher had to constantly watch them. Next time, I  will hold the activity at a nearby park or take smaller numbers of kids to this location.

2) Define Expectations: Tell the kids ahead of time that all insects will be released or placed in our science area. They will still ask, but at least it’s up front. Many wanted to take their creepy crawlies home, but this wasn’t possible. If we do some pinning, then they can take them home.

3) Keep it very simple: Turns out that Friday is the toughest day for our kids. After a long week, they are least likely to listen and I am least likely to have patience. Next time, I would just dig with them and not make the traps. Most couldn’t dig a hole deep enough to place their traps anyway. The pitfall trap activity will work better with older kids. Then, just go on a safari.

Tell me about your adventures with kids and insects.  What worked? What didn’t? What did you do? You can find me playing with insects at the Goodman Community Center. Like what you see here? Register for this blog and get a free 11-page Bubble Activity Guide. Just click on the home page and type in your email.


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