Invent an Insect Project

We used this project as a contest to give classes a chance to win a field trip to the Harry's Big Adventure: My Bug World exhibition. This is a great project for when you start to focus on entymology. The activity encourages students to think critically, be creative and work in teams. We enjoyed judging the submissions and are sure that your students will have a blast inventing insects of their own.

Intended for grades 3 - 6.

Winner of the Science Center Competition
5th Graders from St. Francis of Assisi School created Pondimi, an aquatic/river bank insect that hisses and uses its sharp wings to ward off predators.

Getting Started

Step 1:
 
Students will choose one of the habitats from the descriptions listed below and "invent" an insect. Students should research their chosen habitat and find out what other predators or prey reside there as well as what adaptations they think their insect will need to have to survive in that environment.
 
Tundra: Climate is extremely cold with an average winter temperature of -30 degrees Fahrenheit and average summer temperature of 40 degree Fahrenheit. The plants in the area look very plain and sparse at first glance. The little vegetation that is present is short and clumped close together. While the area doesn’t get much rainfall, the ground is constantly frozen in some form and it does have a layer of permafrost. Puddles and bogs form in the summer time. While the area seems bleak, it is home to a surprising variety of mammals, birds, fish and insects. Look closely and you’ll discover surprisingly hearty diversity. Due to constant migration the population is constantly changing. Dead organic material is the ecosystem’s basic source of nutrients and an insect’s main predator will be birds and a few small mammals.  However your bug will have to watch out for other predators that include birds and a few small mammals.
 
Tropical Forests:  There is no large body of water but everything is consistently damp due to the high humidity and rainy season.  Temperature is between 65 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Forests are dense and plentiful with exotic plant and animal life. Trees, mossy ground cover and decomposing matter are a bug’s favorite food source. A bug’s top predators are the many species of monkeys, amphibians and larger carnivorous bugs.
 
Grasslands: The expansive flat lands are covered in tall grasses with just a few sparse trees speckling the horizon. The annual rainfall averages 50-120 cm and are followed by a long period of drought. Insects feed on plant life and dead organic matter. The biggest risk to your insects is the rapidly spreading fires that occur during drought. While this adds a good deal of nutrients to the porous soil, it eliminates the camouflage of hiding spots for many small animals. They become easy targets to birds with little  protection. At these times, becoming one with the ground is crucial as the sole means of a food source and shelter. During a fire, insects are the least likely to escape.
 
Desert: With 2-4 cm of rain each year the sandy, gravely terrain comes to life with even a small amount of rainfall. The temperature can be as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the evenings. Insects need only a very small portion of nectar and plants life on which to feed. Plant and animal life possess unique adaptations in order to protect themselves in these harsh conditions. Bugs are very active during the day and try to stay in the shadows of the plants.  Resources are at a premium so all bugs require a good deal of defensive tactics against predators including birds, scorpions and other bugs.
 
Aquatic/River bank: The average summer temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit with an average winter temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  Regularly, the water level stays high with an average yearly rain fall of around 200 cm. The freshwater is often warm and the banks are edged in algae. Insects feed on plants living in and out of the water. Their favorite time to feast is the spring time, eating nectar from wild flowers. A bug’s main predators are the many reptiles, amphibians and birds which roam the land and water.  While a bug may not spend its time living and feeding IN the water, its life cycle would not continue without this moist and properly sheltered habitat. Bugs make frequent trips from shore to the water, especially after heavy rainfall.
 
Step 2:
 
Now the students are ready to design their insects!  They should be creative and remember that this is their invention; it can be as big as their imagination allows it to be! The students should think about what adaptations and characteristics the insect will need to survive in the chosen habitats. Insects should be modelled out of natural or recyclable material (glue, tape, and string are also allowed).
 
Step 3:Students should create a photo journal complete with descriptions dedicated to their insect. Students should be sure to include the insect's name, size dimensions, insect group/species name, scientific name, life span, life cycle, predators, prey, relations to other bugs and describe its adaptations to survive, and any unique behaviors their insects exhibit.
 
Next step...share and discuss!
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