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Lesson Plan

Wood bug study: investigate their needs to make a habitat

Students do experiments to 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 (2016 curriculum): 
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)
Curriculum connection (2005 science topic): 
Life Science: Characteristics of Living Things (grade K)
Life Science: Needs of Living Things (grade 1)
Life Science: Animal Growth and Changes (grade 2)
Life Science: Habitats and Communities (grade 4)

Image of a wood bug
Outdoor wood bug habitat ready to visit


Introduce wood bugs: we see wood bugs in gardens in the city as well as in the woods. Ask if students have seen them, maybe under logs or rocks. Show a real wood bug and an enlarged image of a wood bug.
Introduce what we will do today: What are the needs of an animal to stay alive? (food, water, shelter). Wood bugs have these needs too. You are going to find out the needs of wood bugs today, then you can take care of some wood bugs yourself.

Activity: Where do wood bugs like to live?
Activity: Looking closely at wood bugs
Each student uses the wood bug in their magnifier for the next activity
Activity: What do wood bugs like to eat? While the wood bugs are settling, can go outside on a wood bug hunt, knowing that they like to hide under rotting wood.
Students now have a shelter and food for their wood bug habitats.
Finish lesson with discussion and review from “Set up a habitat” activity, not already covered.

Closure Discussion: 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. Questions and discussion with other concerns and ideas regarding taking care of the wood bugs over the next few weeks.

Attached documents: 

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.

Grades tested: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Carole Murray
Christy Wong
Diane Merchant
Julie Kawaguchi
Kecia Boecking
Mari Matsuo
Monika Pilat
Sarah Hummerston
Site tested: 
General Gordon Elementary Science Club
McBride Elementary
Sexsmith Elementary
Simon Fraser Elementary
Weir Elementary
Lesson plan originally developed and delivered: 

Scientist in Residence Program, Vancouver School District with teachers Ms. Kawaguchi and Ms. Merchant.

Lesson plan at: