Lesson plan

Wood bugs: investigate their needs to make a habitat

Summary
Students find out the needs of wood bugs through experimenting and discussion: what kind of shelter they like and what they like to eat. With this knowledge, they set up a wood bug habitat to take care of.
Science content
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Classification of Living Things, Biodiversity (1, 3)
Biology: Life Cycles (2)
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)
Procedure

If doing all four activities (at least a 1.5hr lesson):
Show a real wood bug, with discussion of whether students have seen them before, and the different names they have. There are many different species of wood bugs, living all over the world.
Show students how to use magnifiers, before distributing wood bugs to each student for the looking closely at wood bugs activity. Relate their body parts to how they live. At the end of the activity ask students to tip their wood bugs into the food choice dishes (from the What do wood bugs like to eat? activity). Cover the food choice dishes and leave undisturbed for the next little while.
Tell students that they will be keeping wood bugs in their classroom, so they need to know what kind of habitat they need. Do the Where do wood bugs like to live? activity. Ask students where they have seen wood bugs, and reinforce that wood bugs like dark, damp places.
Then return to the food choice dishes for the What do wood bugs like to eat? activity. Add the appropriate food to the habitats.
Review lesson: we experimented with wood bugs to find out their needs. We found out what kind of shelter they like, and we found out what kind of food they prefer. Then we made them habitats to satisfy these needs. You are now their guardians and can take care of them, before we release them outside.

If doing three activities (skip What do wood bugs like to eat activity, and discuss instead - best for Ks and 1s):
Show a real wood bug, with discussion of whether students have seen them before, and the different names they have. There are many different species of wood bugs, living all over the world.
Tell students that they will be keeping wood bugs in their classroom, so they need to know what kind of habitat they need. Do the Where do wood bugs like to live? activity. Ask students where they have seen wood bugs, and reinforce that wood bugs like dark, damp places.
Show students how to use magnifiers, before distributing wood bugs to each student for the looking closely at wood bugs activity. Relate their body parts to how they live and eat.
Ask students where they have seen wood bugs, and reiterate where they like to live and what they eat (rotting plant matter, as well as young fresh leaves if they can find them).
Ask students to tip the wood bug they have been observing into the habitat, while adding food to the habitat.

For an outdoor lesson:
Go outside on a wood bug hunt to find out where wood bugs like to live - make sure to include on your list under rotting wood, and in damp places. Collect wood bugs to Look at closely then set up a habitat. Add appropriate shelter (e.g. rotting wood) and food (moist leaves), given what is known about wood bugs and where they were found.

Notes

For one Science Club, I changed the habitat testing: half the tray had sand and half did not. A piece of wood lay across both halves. All the wood bugs in the class were on the wood - not on the sand or the plastic. Could not conclude to put sand over the whole tray. Better to return to the rock and wood on sand.
Have left the rock in for a well-behaved grade 2/3 class and the wood bugs are fine.
Variable results with the preferred food. Sometimes more fresh, sometimes more rotten, sometimes even. Put in the food that the results dictate - the wood bugs are fine.

Other experiments to determine other preferences are possible e.g. see the activity Wood bugs - what do they like to eat, included in the lesson plan on wood bugs. Book reference for other ideas: Kneidel, Sally. 1993. Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method. Fulcrum Publishing. p. 17-25. Please note that as wood bugs are complex living things that need a while to settle in changed environments, it is tricky to find experiments that are both quick and that lead to reasonable conclusions. For example, in my experience testing the light/dark and dry/moist preferences of wood bugs takes longer than many references suggest, and is just not practical for a classroom activity.

Attached documents
Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Teaching Site
Fraser Elementary
Gordon Elementary Science Club
ingridscience afterschool
McBride Elementary
Sexsmith Elementary
Weir Elementary