Elementary Science Program




Observe and describe the structure and behavior of several common insects: mealworms, butterflies, milkweed
bugs, and silkworms:

  • Observe and describe the changes that take place as insects progress through their life cycles

  • Recognize the basic needs of the insects and provide an
    environment which meets those needs.

  • Books for Kids
  • Teacher Resources
  • Web Sites
  • Tips and Hints

Books for Kids

Waiting for Wings Lois Ehlert. Harcourt, 2001, ISBN 0-15-202608-8. Lois Ehlert has outdone herself with this gorgeous (seriously breathtaking) celebration of butterfly metamorphosis. "Out in the fields, eggs are hidden from view, / clinging to leaves with butterfly glue. / Soon caterpillars hatch. They creep and chew. / Each one knows what it must do." As the gentle rhyme unfolds, we turn the small, partial pages that form the larger spread of fabulous foliage in this lush, oversized book. Before our eyes, the eggs turn to caterpillars, the caterpillars to cases, the cases to lovely butterflies. "They pump their wings, get ready to fly, then hungry butterflies head for the sky." The colors become increasingly dazzling, each butterfly springing to life with Ehlert's color-soaked cut-paper magic. Several pages of background material conclude the book, labeling different kinds of butterflies at different stages of development, from the buckeye butterfly to the painted lady to the monarch. A "Butterfly Information" page clearly labels butterfly anatomy and answers basic question about these fascinating fluttery insects, a "Flower Identification" page showcases butterfly-attracting flowers such as the purple coneflower (Echinacea), phlox, and lantana, and the last page offers a few pointers on growing a butterfly garden. (amazon.com)

Insectlopedia: Poems and Paintings Douglas Florian. Harcourt, 1989, ISBN: 0-15-201306-7. Well-loved for his clever wordplay (complete with endearingly shameless visual and verbal puns), Florian manages to seamlessly blend science with pure whimsy. Take "The Praying Mantis," for example: "Upon a twig/I sit and pray/For something big/To wend my way;/A caterpillar,/Moth,/or bee--/I swallow them/Religiously." His rhythmic chant "The Weevils" begins, "We are weevils./We are evil./We've aggrieved/Since time primeval." Add a few inchworms, moths, and whirligig beetles, and you have the blisteringly funny, stingingly clever Insectlopedia, the perfect book for emerging entomologists and budding poets alike. (amazon.com)

Insects Robin Bernard. Illustrated with photographs. National Geographic Society. 16pp. Paperback ISBN 0-7922-6670-6. This book introduces the reader to the world of insects with captivating illustrations and precise text. The magnificent layout and design of each page visually scaffolds the conceptual development of the unique physical characteristics and behaviors of insects. Topics include anatomy, animal adaptations, and camouflage for survival. NSTA

The Prince of Butterflies Bruce Coville. Harcort, 2002, ISBN: 0152014543. One summer morning, a flock of butterflies alights on John Farrington's house and changes his life forever. Surrounding John in his yard, the monarchs ask for his help. They have lost their way. The green places are gone--the meadows have become mini-malls; the forests are now parking lots. Can John lead them to another refuge?
     Passionate, moving, and inspiring, this glorious flight of fantasy from master storyteller Bruce Coville is a timely fable about the difficulties--and the rewards--of staying true to one's heart.

Bugs  Nancy Winslow Parker and Joan Richards Wright. ISBN: 0-688-08296-3. Sixteen common insects, including fleas, flies, and mosquitoes are introduced in verse. It is a good early independent reading book. Nicely illustrated. Included in the New York Times Best Books for Children list.

Bugs Are Insects (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Series). Anne Rockwell. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Harper Collins Children’s Books. 40pp. Trade ISBN 0-06-028568-0; Library ISBN 0-06-028569-9; Paperback ISBN 0-06-445203-4, HarperTrophy. (P) Through engaging narrative and colorful illustrations, readers explore the physical characteristics of insects, their habitats, means for getting food, and the distinctions between animals with similar characteristics as well as distinctions among insects such as bugs and beetles. Insect/animal identification listing included.

Silkworms by Sylvia A. Johnson. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co. 1982, ISBN: 0-8225-9557-5. This award-winning book has outstanding photographs of all stages of the life of a silkworm. Clearly written text provides many details about these amazing animals. While the text is too advanced for first graders to read, the book is worth having for the marvelous photos and the background information it provides. It might make a good read-aloud book.

From Egg to Butterfly Shannon Zemlicka.  Lerner. 24pp. Library ISBN 0-8225-0713-7.  From a recently hatched caterpillar’s first meal (its egg), to the formation of the pupae within a jeweled chrysalis, culminating in the metamorphosis of an adult butterfly, readers will be transfixed by the incredibly crisp and clear photographs accompanying the text. This up-close and intimate look at the life stages of a monarch butterfly will be an asset to any young entomologist’s library. (Science and Children, March, 2003, 35)

Honeybees Deborah Heligman. Illustrated by Carla Golembe. National Geographic Society. 32pp. Trade ISBN 0-7922-6678-1.  Captivating illustrations enhance this informative book about the life cycle, social organization, physical characteristics, and adaptations of the honeybee. The book’s content is relevant to early elementary students (grades three or four) as well as the primary grades. A fun activity simulating honeybee communications is included at the end. Author’s Note. (Science and Children, March, 2003, 35)

Ladybugs: Red, Fiery, and Bright. Written and illustrated by Mia Posada. Carolrhoda. 32pp. Library ISBN 0-87614-334-6.  A colorful description of the ladybug’s life cycle, depicted in beautiful illustrations and expressed in poetic verse. Additional information provides insight into the many variations among ladybugs—types, sizes, predator/prey concept, and their habits. Author’s Note. (Science and Children, March, 2003, 36)

Once I Knew a Spider. Jennifer Owings Dewey. Illustrated by Jean Cassels. Walker. 32pp. Trade ISBN 0-8027-8700-2; Library ISBN 0-8027-8701-0. In midsummer, a mother-to-be begins observing an orb spider. In this true story, the author shares her observations of this remarkable survivor that lives through the winter. She details how the orb spider builds her web and egg sac and secures food. The author’s notes provide additional information about the characteristics of the orb spider. Author’s Notes. (Science and Children, March, 2003, 36)

The Bug Scientists (Scientists in the Field series). Donna M. Jackson. Illustrated with photographs. Houghton Mifflin. 48pp. Trade ISBN 0-618-10868-8. A lively portrayal of five entomologists whose research ranges from monarch butterfly migration and the use of insects in criminal investigations to insects in Hollywood productions and farmer ants. Bibliography with Websites, Glossary, Index, Amazing Facts. (Science and Children, March, 2003, 37)

Are You a Butterfly by Judy Allen. Larousse Kingfisher Chambers, 2000. ISBN 0-7534-5240-5. Readers gain a front seat into what life is like for a butterfly and a spider. Colorful artwork and oversized text teach about the living things' life cycle. Butterfly trivia facts are found in the back of the book. (STC Literature Links)

Butterfly House by Eve Bunting. Scholastic Press, 1999, ISBN 0-590-84884-4.  A young girl and her grandfather build a butterfly cage together then watch a caterpillar mature. The decorations on the butterfly cage make the story beautiful. (STC Literature Links)

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle by Eric Carle. Philomel. 1999, ISBN 0-399-23201-X.  Complete with sound effects (thanks to a microchip), students can hear and see the click beetle that's stranded on its back. Other animals come along to help the beetle turn over. Children will enjoy the story and the beetle's success in righting itself. (STC Literature Links)

Insects at Your Fingertips by Judy Nayer and Grace Goldberg. McClanahan Book Co., 1993, ISBN 1-56293-335-3. This book explores the world of six-legged creatures, from busy bees and fast-flying dragonflies to noisy crickets and beautiful butterflies. Beautiful illustrations and uniquely shaped pages make the book very appealing.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Scholastic, Inc., 1981, ISBN 0-590-03029-9. A beautifully illustrated story about a caterpillar that eats its way through all kinds of things, including the book.

Life Cycles: Monarch Butterfly by David M. Schwartz. Huntington Beach, CA: Creative Teaching Press, 1999 ISBN 1-57471-579-8. Excellent close-up photographs of all stages of the Monarch life cycle are accompanied by informative text.

A Butterfly's Life by Melissa Blackwell Burke. Steck-Vaughn, 2001 ISBN 0-7398-2397-3. Great photographs of all stages of the life cycle with text designed for beginning readers.

Book of Science Questions that Children Ask by Jack Meyers. Boyds Mills Pr, 1995, ISBN 1563974789. An 11-year old reader from Broomall, Pa, writes "This book help me do my homework all the time. Trust me and buy this book." (amazon.com) Selected from back issues of Highlights for Children magazine, this collection of answers to over 350 children's questions about science covers a wide range of science topics. (ENC Focus, vol 8, No 3, 2001, p 92)

Teacher Resources

KWHL presents one teacher's way of using a slightly modified K-W-L chart to introduce the idea of insects to her fourth-grade class. The idea should work with first-graders, too.

What do Pillbugs Like? describes a short experiment to test the preferences of pillbugs fir dry or moist and dark or light conditions.

Keep a Butterfly Diary includes a check-list of things to look for as you watch a butterfly egg hatch and the caterpillar grow and develop.

The Family Butterfly Book by Rick Mikula.  Pownal, VT: Storey Books, 2001. ISBN: 1-58017-292-X,  (Reviewed: Science Teacher September, 2001, 102.) Vibrant color photos and understandable text make this a very helpful teacher resource. The book provides good teacher background, as well as a variety of butterfly activities, information, and projects. Many of the activities are designed to be done by the family.

Classroom Creature Culture: Algae to Anoles by Carolyn H. Hampton, Carol D. Hampton, and David Kramer. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association, 1994, 96 pp ISBN 0-87355-120-6

The first articles describe why living organisms are important classroom resources because children can explore and develop their observation skills as well as learn to collect and analyze data. The majority of the following articles illustrate the traits and characteristics of specific creatures. Details of behavior, maintenance, collection, and culturing will help teachers evaluate the best members for their proposed science classroom environment.

I was intrigued by the article on the life cycle of mealworms, which are large enough to be observed easily by primary students and require a minimum of care. As Glenn McGlathery states: “To a child, the metamorphosis seems like magic, but it’s only the magic of science.”

Organisms and Their Needs Curriculum Companions contains detailed resources tailored to modules dealing with animals. Take a look at the growing list of resources for this module. Background info, enrichment, interdisciplinary ideas, images, assessment, tips and comments, and kids web pages are all included in this useful site. Carolina Biological Supply Company provides information about regaring live animals on its web site. Of interest to you are: Silkworm Culture Instructions and Painted Lady Butterfly Care Instructions.



Web Sites

The Foss website will have material for students and teachers that relates to this unit. Check the website to see interactive simulations, to write questions to a scientist, to find teaching tips, and to talk with other classes using FOSS.

The Callipitter Journal presents some interesting information about caterpillars in a high-tech format. The first page will read itself to you (if you have CyberBuddy free software loaded) and the Daily Diary combines text and pictures in a unique scrolling presentation that describes the development of blue swallowtail butterflies. If you look at nothing else on this site, check out the Daily Diary, which you can access from the home page. It's cool!

The Center for Insect Science Education Outreach is a great source of information about many kinds of insects that can be used in the classroom. Check out their information sheets and rearing sheets.

Insect Safari is a site put together by the Smithsonian Institution and Orkin (the pest control company) toteach kids about the roles of insects in our lives. You will find interesting material for both teachers and students here.

Where do butterflies come from?  Here’s an art idea that also helps children visualize the metamorphosis process. Very clear instructions.

The Butterfly Website is a place where you can learn about the fascinating world of butterflies. You can tour our photo gallery, learn how to plant a butterfly garden, take a field trip, find a pen pal, chat with other butterfly lovers, and much more.

Children's Butterfly Site Learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. You can also print a picture to color.

All About Nature: Animal Printouts Here you will find some basic information about a wide variety of animals. You can select the animal you are interested in either from an alphabetical list or a category listing (mammals, dinosaurs, etc.). Pictures accompany the kid-friendly text.

Silkworms in a Shoebox   provides historical information about silkworms as well as links to other sources of information.

Organisms and Their Needs Curriculum Companion Background info, enrichment, interdisciplinary ideas, images, assessment, tips and comments, and kid web pages are all included in this useful site.

Tips and Hints

  • The food for the silkworms is a bit stinky after it is prepared. Don't try to heat it in a microwave oven just before lunch--the odor lingers for an hour or two. A couple of teachers have learned this the hard way.