Aims and Goals
To discover the anatomy, behavior, and habitats of insects and their relatives by collecting
specimens in bug boxes and sweep nets and going on a micro hike.
What good are insects, arachnids, and invertebrates? We find them ugly and scary and some
of them even bite! Although many people think of them as undesirable pests, arthropods and
their kin do far more good than harm. In fact, our world could not exist without them. Bees and
ants collect nectar and pollen while pollinating plants. Ladybugs eat aphids, which cause
damage to plants. Some insects provide commercial products like honey, wax, and silk.
Spiders eat harmful pests, like insects that are not good for plants. Both insects and arachnids
provide food for birds, fish, and countless other animals.
By examining arthropods, invertebrates, and mollusks in their habitat, students can learn to
appreciate their role in nature. Insects have three body segments: the head, the thorax, and the
abdomen. They have six legs and a skeleton on the outside, or exoskeleton. On the head,
there is usually a pair of compound eyes, the antennae, and the mouthparts. The thorax bears
three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings (in flying insects).
Arachnids can be found in the same habitat as insects. Arachnids have two body segments, at
least eight legs, and a skeleton on the outside. They lack antennae and wings. The head, or
cephalothorax, contains the simple eyes, mouthparts, and limbs in pairs.
Worms, snails, centipedes, and millipedes are invertebrates that also live in the soil. A worm has
no eyes and no ears. A snail has eyes at the tip of its tentacles and glides on a mucus trail.
Centipedes have claws that are poisonous and they eat small insects. Millipedes eat plants and
they like to curl up in a ball under logs.
Words to Know
insect, arachnid, arthropod, invertebrate, mollusk, nectar, pollen, pollinate, honey, head, thorax,
abdomen, compound eye, antennae, legs, wings, simple eye, cephalothorax, exoskeleton
Provided: posters of common insects, arachnids, and invertebrates, Discovery Scope handheld
microscopes, sweep nets, cord
1. Ask students how they feel about insects, arachnids, and invertebrates. Do they like or hate
them? Why? Sit in a circle, have students close their eyes while imagining insects, spiders,
and snails. Spread out the posters inside the circle. Have them open their eyes and look at
the drawings. Afterward, discuss why they are beneficial. Ask volunteers to complete the
sentence, “I like insects/arachnids/ invertebrates because...”
2. Insect/Arachnid/Invertebrate Anatomy. Group the children so that each group has one
For younger students - have each group point out the main body parts. Parent-chaperones
can help read the stories found on the back of the posters.
For older students - have each group describe the main body parts and read the story on the
back of the poster.
3. Divide students into three groups, the “Under Loggers,” the “Micro-Detectives” and the
“Sweep Netters.” Explain that groups will rotate every 10 minutes. Walk down the Java Trail
towards the beach. The parent-leader calls time and blows the whistle to regroup. Switch
tools and show favorite bugs. Set boundaries before you start! Assign a parent-chaperone
to each group.
• Under Loggers - Pass out Discovery Scope handheld microscopes. Parent-chaperone
leads group along the Java Trail looking for logs. Once a log is spotted halt! Kneel down
and examine the log. Look under the bark, the log and surrounding leaf litter. Collect
insects to share with the group.
• Micro Detectives - Pass out Discovery Scope handheld microscopes and cord. Parentchaperone
leads group on the Java Trail. Have students place their cords on the ground
a few feet off the trail. Take a “micro-hike,” crawling alongside their cord with collection
jars in hand. Collect insects to share with the group.
• Sweep Netters - Pass out one sweep net and Discovery Scope handheld microscope for
each pair of students. Parent-chaperone leads group along the Java Trail toward the
marsh. Stop at the first patch of open grass. Have students swing the net gently and
collect insects to share with the group.
4. Between each rotation, allow time to share collections with other groups. Can students
identify their findings? How many legs and body parts do they have? Do they have wings
and antennae? How do they move? Do they make noises? What is their role in the forest?
Be sure to let insects go before switching equipment. Discuss why it’s important to return
1. Have each student share one amazing discovery.
2. Has their impression of bugs changed after observing them in their natural habitat?
3. Are bugs really scary?
4. Why are they important in nature? Bees and ants collect nectar and pollen while
pollinating plants. Some insects provide commercial products like honey, wax, and
5. What do they eat? Ladybugs eat aphids, which cause damage to plants. Spiders eat
harmful pests, like insects that are not good for plants. Centipedes eat small insects.
Millipedes eat plants and they like to curl up in a ball under logs.
6. What eats them? Both insects and arachnids provide food for birds, fish, and
countless other animals.
7. What would we do without these insects?