Lesson plan

Wood bugs: investigate their needs to make a habitat

Students find out the needs of wood bugs: 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. Students also look at wood bugs closely with a magnifier.
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)

For an in-classroom lesson:
1. Briefly show a real wood bug, with discussion of whether students have seen them before.
2. Show students how to use magnifiers, before distributing wood bugs to each student for the looking closely at wood bugs activity. 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). Leave the food choice dishes undisturbed for the next little while.
3. Now that the students know a little about wood bugs, tell them they will be keeping wood bugs in their classroom, so they need to know what they need to include in the habitat. Do the Where do wood bugs like to live? activity.
4. Then return to the food choice dishes for the What do wood bugs like to eat? activity. Add the appropriate food to the habitats.
5. Discuss anything not already covered from the Set up a habitat activity.
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.

For an outdoor lesson:
Look closely at wood bugs, discussing how their body serves their needs, but is different from ours. Release as soon as possible.
Go outside on a wood bug hunt to find out Where do wood bugs like to live?. Collect wood bugs to 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.


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.

With younger students (Ks and some 1s), usually best not to do all these activities in one lesson. They run out of steam with the constantly moving objectives and are most happy watching the bugs and arranging their habitat ("We made them a food court"). Suggest removing the food preference, and maybe also the shelter preference if needed. 10X magnifiers worked well with them.

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
Gordon Elementary Science Club
ingridscience afterschool
McBride Elementary
Sexsmith Elementary
Fraser Elementary
Weir Elementary