Investigation Sequence



Written by:

Scott Olson and Rory Marra



Focus Questions

What characteristics allow for survival?
What do families consist of?
What happens to animals when the environment changes?
How do scientists find out about things?


Content: Earth, Physical, & Life

Adaptation increases survival of species.
When an environment is altered by humans or by changes in climate, variations of adaptations may or may not help the insect survive.
Insects have relationships.

Cross cutting concepts

Models are structures that correspond to real objects, events, or classes of events.
Evolution-Organisms can change to function better or worse in an environment over time.

Science Practice

Collecting data and communicating valid conclusions

Personal, Social, Technology, Nature of Science, History


Background information



Activity Sequence

1. Color Adaptations
2. Insect hunt
3. Insect sorting
4. Extending
5, Physical adaptations

Activity Descriptions

Activity 1
Color Adaptations
MATERIALS: black and white newspaper (no colored ads), black construction paper, scissors, black poster board (approx 8 sheets), cardboard moth pattern cutouts, pencil or colored marker (not black), timer or watch, data chart
1. Ask the students. What color are insects? Why are some different colors? What difference does it make?
2. Tell them they will do a simulation investigate these questions.
3. Pair students and give them directions.
4. One member of each group will trace and cut out 20 black construction paper moths. The other member will trace and cut 20 newspaper moths.
5. While students are occupied with this task, the teacher should spread out in a long line several sheets of newspaper. Then place a long line of black poster board parallel to the newsprint.
6. Once the students have completed the cutouts, have the students line up along the newsprint. While one member of the pair faces away, the other member spreads all 40 moths on the newsprint, making sure they are interspersed.
7. Tell the students that they can pretend that they are birds and that they are going to swoop down and catch a moth. Have the student turn and, when it is time to begin, the student will turn around, bend down, pick up ONE moth and stand up; repeat for 20 seconds, making sure to turn and stand completely after each one. The birds should not stop or pause unless they are facing away from the moths.
8. When time is up, partner #2 records the number of black and newsprint moths collected.
9. The group then moves to the black paper and repeats, switching jobs. If the class is large, half the groups can begin with the newsprint while the other half starts on the black paper; then reverse.
10. Once the activity is completed, the teacher helps the students compile the data for the entire class and ask questions regarding the results, leading the children to observe any patters and associations.
11. The students should realize the connections between coloration and background colors. The students should also connect that when an environment is altered by humans or by changes in climate, variations may or may not help the insect survive.
12. Ask the following questions.

What difference does the color of the insect make?
What would happen if the color of the background those insects normally landed on changed? Do you think that could happen?
How do animals adapt to changes?
What happens if they don’t?
How do you think scientists discovered the idea of camouflage?
How do simulations like this help scientists?

Activity 2
Insect Hunt
Collecting Materials: Hand lenses (or Discovery Scopes if available), tweezers, trowel, ruler, collection jars, clipboard & data sheets, pencil, & tote bag (to hold items and serve as a Discovery Bag)
Materials to make: Data sheet form to be used for recording observations during collection; insect flash cards including insects in the area.
Note. Other items can be easily added or substituted in the Discovery Bags
1. Ask students what is a family unit. Show students a family portrait. Discuss the concepts of family units and relatives, with which students will have personal knowledge.
2. Introduce the concept that people aren't the only organisms that have families. Insects, which the class has been studying, also have families. (In fact, all animals have families.)
3. Introduce the insect hunt activity.
Show students a Discovery Bag, and discuss the items in it. Discuss with students the concept that they are scientists working to explore a habitat—the schoolyard. For this activity, the schoolyard is not a playground—it is a habitat, which they are exploring to determine the insect organisms living there.
4. Explain to students that scientists work in teams of specialists.
5. Students will be divided into teams of scientists. Each will be responsible for using one of the tools in the Discovery Bag; it will be their 'specialty'. Periodically, groups can rotate specialties so that all students have an opportunity to use each instrument.
6. Conduct insect hunt.
7. As students collect each specimen have them label each with their group name, where they collected the insect, and the date When they are done collecting have them place them in the freezer overnight.

Activity 3
Insect Sorting
Materials: Paper plates for sorting insects, insect flash cards, age appropriate field guides, insect family chart use ( as a guide to orders & families), classroom computer
1. The day after the insect hunt, take insects out of the freezer and ask student groups to work together to sort the insects that they found according to their similarities & differences. Paper plates can be used easily for this purpose, with a separate group on each plate.
2. Ask students to list and describe the groups that they devised in their journals.
3. What groups of insects did each student group find?
4. What were the similarities and differences between groups of insects?
5. Ask if there is a relationship to the types of insects they found and the location that they found them.
6. Ask students how scientists categorize organisms.
7. Ask is it important to categorize them? If so why or why not?
8. Ask how important is observation for scientists.
9. Ask if they will be able to use what they learned and if so where and how.

Activity 4
Materials: classification chart and insect flash cards (websites given)
1. Show students a basic classification chart showing how insects fit into the world of animals.
2. Tell students that similar insects are grouped into families, and that similar families are grouped into larger units called orders.
3. Using the classification chart and insect flash cards, ask each group to re-evaluate their insects to see what orders they include.
4. How were their groupings like the insect order chart? How were they different?
5. How can you relate what you have learned to other organisms?

Activity 5
Physical adaptations
Materials: There should be enough of the following materials supplied such that each child can make an insect and perform the activity. Paper bags with strips of paper identifying different physical adaptations (color, legs, antennae, wings) pipe cleaners, wiggley eyes, and play-dough
1. Ask the students if they like to solve science problems.
2. Ask them if they know what a physical characteristic is.
3. With a sort of amazed, disgusted, perplexed, and impossible expression look into several of the paper bags and telling the students that he/she has a puzzle that needs to be solved. That in each bag is an insect, but in pieces. The teacher will ask if the students are willing to help put the insects together.
4. The activity will begin with the students drawing a slip of paper from each paper bag at the front of the room. Each paper bag will represent a different physical characteristic ( They are to construct an insect based on the physical characteristics they select.
5. Tell the students that as they create their insect they should list at least four physical characteristics and how it would be beneficial or hinder the insect.
6. Give students time to assemble their insect.
7. Have each student share their insect with the class and how their insects' physical characteristics are beneficial or would hinder the insect? After each student is done presenting ask the other students if they could think of other animals that have physical characteristics that are similar. A class chart could be made for the different characteristics, what animals have similar, and whether it is an advantage, disadvantage, or both.
8. What do these characteristics mean in terms of predator and prey relationships?
9. How do animals adapt to changes?
10. What happens if they don’t?
11. How does this information help people?


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes