To make models of insects and to use the Internet for insect exploration.
"Models are tools for learning about the things they are meant to resemble. Physical models are by far the most obvious to young children." (Science for All Americans, p. 4.) In this lesson, students will explore insects by making models of insects of their choice.
Before completing this lesson, students should have many opportunities to directly observe actual insects. Exploring living insects gives students a concrete reference for the comparisons they will make later between an insect and its model. Observing living insects also allows students to see how insect body parts function and how they work together.
Once students have explored insects and have had opportunities to discuss, reflect, and record their explorations individually and in groups, they will be ready to make models of the insects as outlined in this lesson. During the process of making the models, you can help students think critically about the differences and likenesses between actual insects and models. While making their models, you can help students think about the functions of the various insect parts they are making, and to question how these various parts work together.
When the models are completed, students can compare and contrast their models to the insects and to pictures of the insects. Students should first have the opportunity to compare according to the observable attributes they identify. You can then help them identify more attributes for comparison. Documenting these observations can extend the students'learning about models.
A goal is for students to learn about insects through their models. In addition, students should begin to have a better understanding of the usefulness of models in general. It might be helpful to think about the learning styles of your particular students and to offer them a variety of materials and an open-ended way of using the materials for making their models.
Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences can be a useful guide for thinking about how students might make models differently depending upon their learning style. For a look at Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, you can visit The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) on the EdWeb site.
To help students become excited about making models of insects, you might want to do some science charting with them. Ask, "What do you know about insects?" And then, "What do you want to know about insects?"
These questions will yield responses from students that will both give you an idea of their current knowledge about insects and let you know what their interests are. This provides an excellent opportunity for inquiry-based learning through models. Because this is the beginning phase of the students' project, this is the time to accept all responses from students as valid. Later, students will have the opportunity to reflect upon their statements as they compare their models with the actual insects.
Students can begin their inquiry with an exploration of the Insectweb. This site offers photographs, information, and activity ideas about insects. In the Process section of this site, under, "Step 1: Look at the Insects," you can find photographs of insects. By downloading photographs of real insects, you can make a class "insect folder" for the students to view on the computer.
You could also print the insect photographs and mount them on tag paper or cardboard to make insect playing cards. Students could use their imaginations to create games with these cards. In doing so, they will observe, compare, and communicate all aspects of the insect, its body, and its body parts.
After students have observed many insects, they can choose which insects they want to focus on by making models of them. Each student can "adopt" an insect!
Following are suggestions as to what students need to know about the insect:
- What does it look like?
- Does it have wings, legs, eyes, etc. and how many?
- Where are the body parts on the whole of the body?
- How do the parts work together?
- How do the various parts help the insect live?
Students should have the opportunity to draw, photograph, write, and discuss their insects before making their models. For ideas on the kinds of materials to provide students with for making their insect models, see Bug Fun!, on the University of Kentucky Entomology website, or Insect Modeling, on the K-8 Aeronautics Internet Textbook website.
While it is useful to review ideas of how to make models when presenting to the students, the most open-ended, student-directed approach is most appropriate. Gather ideas for materials from the listed websites, then put them out for students to use freely. Have living insects, the students' drawings, books, and the print-outs of the virtual bugs displayed for students to view. Students will use these as references for making their models. Sometimes a student may ask for a material you have not provided. This shows a real interest and investment on the part of the student, and you can work together to find that material.
The process of making the model is what is most important. Whether or not the model "accurately" replicates the insect is inconsequential. If the student makes her/his model in her own way, according to her own processing of information, then the learning associated with making the model is meaningful and interesting to the student. Asking open-ended questions during the process of making their models will help students think about the insect parts, functions, and representation.
You might ask:
- What is important about this insect part?
- What do you need to make your insect like the one in the picture?
- How can you make your model move like the real insect?
Again, because this is an inquiry-based project, students may give answers that are not "accurate," but they will be thinking about these questions as they make their model. Thinking about these science aspects is what is important, not what the end product looks like or whether or not the student has mastered insect facts. During the Assessment section of this lesson, you can help students use their models to reflect on the accuracy of their concepts.
Now that students have completed their models, it is a good time for reflection. In the beginning of this project, you asked students what they knew and wanted to know about insects. Now it is meaningful to ask them, "What do you know about insects now?" They can compare their new knowledge base with their beginning knowledge base about insects.
Note:In the Motivation, students will likely have asked questions about insects that weren't answered in this lesson. The Extensions provide resources that might be useful in answering those questions.
To help students think about how their models helped them learn about insects, you can ask questions like:
- How is your model like/different from the actual insect?
- Let's compare your model to the actual insect. What do you notice about the size, color, number of body parts, etc.? (Help them think through various attributes.)
- What other models do you know about?
- Have you ever built a model of anything else? How was it like/different from the actual object?
Students should be able to describe their models. Encourage students to talk about what their insect body parts do, how they function, and how they relate to the whole body. Finding a way to display the groups' models near the living insects, drawings, and/or photographs, fosters group examination, discussion, and reflection about the models and the insects they represent.
If you would like your students to have more practice observing and describing during scientific inquiry, you can refer to the Science NetLinks lesson Scientific Inquiry.
Students will have fun making their own virtual bug at the Monster Bugs section of The Magic Schoolbus website. These bugs could be printed out and mounted on tag paper or cardboard for games; for example, students could sort and classify by attribute and by "monster bug"/real bug.
You could add photographs of the insect models to your computer file of insect photographs. Photographs of the models could also be mounted to cardboard and added to the insect card game to extend sorting, classifying, matching, and comparing activities. If you enlarge the photographs, you could cut them into pieces, mount the individual pieces, and let the students work on insect puzzles. This provides a good vehicle for further discussion of how insects are made of parts.
The Lesson Plans section of the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University provides ideas for insect songs and books. Storytelling, whether through song, writing, a verbal description, a drawing, or physically acting it out, is a wonderfully tangible way for students to relate their learning about insect models to others in their environment. It encourages students to think creatively about how "their insect" relates to the world. Students can use their models in their storytelling and the insect models can meet each other!