By Aimee Traver
University of Idaho

ITV Series:  Bill Nye the Science Guy #131

AN00815_.WMF (4224 bytes)Overview
Students will identify insects and characteristics of insects, including vocabulary related to insects. 
Students will also determine whether insects are helpful or harmful.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to identify characteristics of insects and if insects help or harm us.
  • They will also be able to describe the stages in metamorphosis.


  • Paper and pencils for each student
  • chart paper
  • marker
  • students handout
  • computers with Internet access
  • students journals
  • overhead projector
  • crayons
  • ant farm

Focus for Viewing

The focus for viewing is a specific responsibility or task that the students are responsible for during or after watching this video. Ask the students to watch and write down what they learn about insects during the video.

Pre-Viewing Activities

Begin by creating a KWL chart with your students and fill out what they know about insects under the "K" and what they want to know about insects under the "W". Explain that we will learn many things about insects while we watch this video clip.
Explain that before we watch the clip, there are new words that we need to learn. Create a semantic web to introduce new words. In the middle of the web write, "characteristics of insects." Have students write this web in their journals. Ask students if they can help fill in some characteristics of insects.


  • metamorphosis (change insects go through),
  • antennae (used for feeling and smelling), habitat
  • (where insects live),
  • foe (enemy, not a friend),
  • thorax(middle body section),
  • exoskeleton(hard outer shell on insects)

Students will learn more about all of these words during the video clip, but they need to have an idea what these words mean before the video begins. Once they feel comfortable with these words, begin the video.

Viewing Activities

Start the video at the beginning and pause the video where Bill says, "and if you order now, a set or two of wings."  Ask the students if they remember what antennae are? (for touching and smelling)  Say, "The video says there are three body segments. Can anybody remember what they are?" (head, thorax, abdomen) Say, "Let's watch on." Resume the video and pause where Bill says, "Insects are kind of weird." 
Ask again what the body parts are. Ask where, on the body, they are located. Use these characteristics to play along in "Insect or Not".  Fast forward past the child putting the papaya in the jar. Resume the video and pause when child says, "Pupa turns into an adult." Ask students if humans go through metamorphosis. (No) Say, "We'll watch for more information on metamorphosis."
Resume the video and after "Insect Stages," fast forward to "Hey! Look at this" and then play the video again. Pause where Bill says, "But they're not insects." Ask the students why they aren't insects.

Play the video and pause at, "we would have more garbage than you can imagine."  Ask the students if it sounds like insects are our friend or foe.
What else do insects do to help us? (They produce honey, silk, wax, and other products and they pollinate crops, natural enemy of pests, scavengers, and food for other creatures) What do insects do to harm us? (They can destroy crops and carry diseases)
Fast forward to "Way Cool Scientist" and play until, "It's their job to recycle and decompose trees back to their natural setting." Pause the video and ask how termites help us. (They eat dead trees in the forests) Ask how termites bother us. (They eat the wood that our houses are made of)

Post Viewing Activities

Review with the students the characteristics they learned about insects. You can write this information in the "L" column of the KWL. Talk about different sizes of insects they have seen.
Insects are hard to find and study sometimes because they are so small and fast, not to mention they have wings and can fly away quickly. Knowing this we are going to catch insects a new way. We will be going on an insect safari using the Internet. We will use the computers in the library once we team up with a couple of friends.

Create journals about your trips so you can share them with classmates. On our insect safari our goal is to find five different types of insects so we can see the variety of insects. Once we get these five we want to find out:

  • insect's name
  • what they eat
  • where they live
  • something fun about this insect

Web sites about insects:

We will come together as a class at the end of this and share with the rest of the class.  

Discuss behaviors of ants with students. What are they doing? How do we know? Why do you think they would do that? Get into groups of 4 to 5 students and go outside to observe ants. Record your observations and speculate why the ants are doing what they are doing. See if the ants come across any obstacles. How do they work around these obstacles? What would you have done if that was an obstacle for you? Students can take their recorded observations at home to further their investigation.

Have the students come together as a class again and share what they observed. Students can present their information verbally or they can illustrate what they saw the ants do and present it as a story.


  • Make "Bug Catchers"
  • Make larger than life bugs and hang them from the ceiling.
  • Math - Compare the smallest insect (less than 1/4 inch) to larger insects (up to 5 inches long) as well as to their own size.  Compare strength of insects in relation to their size versus our strength.
  • Write a letter to an entomologist and ask if they can learn more about insects. They can invite the entomologist to come in and visit the class and bring insects to share with the class.
  • E-mail other classes in different parts of the country and see if they have different insects than what are common here.
  • For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource!   You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites!  Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! 
  • Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!  Look for a localized version of Mathline and Scienceline on IdahoPTV next year!


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