Teaching insects

Are you teaching the topic ‘Living things and habitats’ in Year 2?

As part of the sequence of lessons in your medium-term plan, you’ve probably arranged for your class to go on a hunt for some minibeasts. This is a really fun and engaging activity, but once the children find the bugs, can they tell you what they are? Do they know which minibeasts are insects?

Learning to identify insects

We have an excellent lesson plan that you can use before the children go on their bug hunt. It will help children learn how to identify insects from other creepy-crawlies, which is an important skill to learn in preparation for classifying animals in Year 4. The downloadable lesson pack includes a lesson plan that links to the National Curriculum and gives ideas for previous and future learning.

Insect lesson plan Year 2

The PowerPoint presentation explains how to identify an insect.

One slide from the PowerPoint presentation included in the lesson pack

Make sock insects!

Your class can then apply their newly acquired knowledge by making fun sock insects! This project requires no sewing, upcycles old socks and it’s perfect for both visual and kinesthetic learners. They each just need to make sure that their cuddly insect has three body parts (a head, thorax and abdomen), as well as six legs. They could also add wings and antennae if they like.

To help with the lesson, we have included detailed images of some insects. These clearly show the body parts to help children to identify the things they must include on their sock insect. To support your less able learners, we’ve included a visual set of instructions that can be followed with help from your teaching assistant.

To stretch your top scientists, there’s a spot-the-odd-one-out activity. A rogue creepy-crawly has found its way onto the page with the other insects. The challenge is to find the minibeast that isn’t an insect, and then use one of the insects as a model for their sock toy. It’s important that throughout the lesson you talk about how to identify whether a bug is an insect. By the end of the lesson, the children should be able to identify that an earwig is an insect, but a woodlouse or a spider is not.

Create an insect display

Once the children have made their sock insects, you could create a fabulous display of them in your classroom. If you would like pupils to revisit their learning, ask them to create labels for each part of the insect and then add those to the display, or alternatively take photographs and pop them in their science books for evidence of the lesson. Make sure you share your photos with us too! Use the hashtag @whizzpopbangmag or post them to our Teacher Facebook Group – join here

For your next lesson, the children can go out and find minibeasts, but unlike when they did this activity in Reception or Year 1, this time they will have the knowledge to identify the insects.

Make insect collectors

Here are some instructions on how to make pooters. You can use these to collect insects safely and humanely, observe them, and then release the insects back into their habitats. Download these instructions for FREE

Find out how to make pooters with your class

Guided reading

To help consolidate pupils’ learning, why not introduce some insect-themed reading into your English sessions? Download our fascinating reading comprehension about ants. Since it’s for Year 2, the text and questions have been differentiated for different abilities.

Year 2 Non-chronological report on ants

Whizz Pop Bang magazine and teaching resources are brilliant ways to enhance your school’s science teaching:

  • We provide downloadable science lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, hands-on investigations and science reading comprehensions written by primary school teachers.
  • Whizz Pop Bang teaching resources link to the National Curriculum, ensuring correct coverage.
  • All of our resources are year group specific, ensuring progression between the years.
  • We make cross-curricular links to other subjects, such as English, Maths, History, Geography, Art, Design and Technology and PSHE.

Prices from as little as £190 per year for a copy of Whizz Pop Bang magazine through the post each month and whole-school access to our ever-growing library of downloadable teaching resources, with unlimited teacher logins.

We’ve also just launched a new individual membership option so teachers and home educators can access all of our amazing downloadable resources for just £20 for the whole yearhttps://www.whizzpopbang.com/schools/#subscribe

“Using Whizz Pop Bang school resources has enabled investigations to be an integral part of my science planning. I now have investigations and experiments throughout my planning rather than just at the end. The lessons are easy to resource and the pack has everything I need to teach the lesson so it saves me time as well!” Louise Hampson, Year 3 teacher 


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Beetle expert Darren Mann hunting for dung beetles

Meet a scientist who digs in poo to find dung beetles!

Darren Mann, Senior Collections Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Darren Mann is a dung beetle expert who looks after a huge collection of insects at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can read a full interview with him in Whizz Pop Bag: INCREDIBLE INSECTS!

Darren had so many brilliant stories to share that we couldn’t fit them all in the issue, so here’s some more from the man who digs in poo to find dung beetles…

“I’ve been obsessed with insects since I was at junior school.”

In my early teens, I joined the Amateur Entomologist’s Society and through their magazine I learnt lots of new things and that there were even more books on insects! Remember, this is before the internet existed. Through this group I bought a secondhand copy of A Coleopterists’ Handbook’ – an entire book on beetles, including how to find them, and this became my instruction manual for the next few years and what got me interested in beetles.

A dung beetle in some dung! Photo: Darren Mann

“The first time I went through the entire process of collecting, preserving, and identifying specimens on my own, I felt a real sense of achievement.”

I went out again, and again, and, well you get the picture. I spent hours searching dung, finding beetles, and because I did it so much, I got quite good at finding and identifying them. I became the Warwickshire county recorder for dung beetles and their allies and found some quite rare ones, including a few species not discovered in the county before. The excitement of getting a first county record has never worn off and it is always a privilege to be the first person to find something new.

“I’ve now worked at the Oxford Museum of Natural History for over 20 years”

My favourite space is the Westwood Room, named after the first professor of Zoology at Oxford – John O. Westwood. It has an open fireplace carved with a hawkmoth and stag beetle life cycle, hanging above is a portrait of the great beetle hunter, the Reverend Canon Fowler, and it housed the British Insect collection, including all the dung beetles.

“I’m currently working on a project moving over a million British insects into a new space”

One of the museum’s major projects, supported through The National Lottery Heritage Fund is HOPE for the Future which aims to move all the British insects out of the Westwood Room and into new storerooms in shiny new pest proof cabinets. The room will then be refurbished to accommodate teaching, workshops, exhibitions and maybe even some bug handling sessions. The first stage in any large project is applying for funding, you need money to employ people and buy stuff. We spent many hours working on the application, discussing logistics, costings, and delivery plans. With over a million British insects, we needed extra help. Training and working with volunteers is an important part of my role. For this project, there was a team of twelve volunteers, counting and cataloguing the insect collection – this took quite a long time due to the sheer number of insects involved.

Moving the beetle collection. Photo: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

“I dream of going dung beetling in medieval Britain!”

Many of our insects were collected by famous entomologists from places that I have also visited. It gives you a sense of connection to the Victorian bug hunters and sometimes a little beetle envy creeps in, as many of their old haunts have been lost or the species is now almost extinct in the UK. If there is ever a time machine built, I want to go dung beetling in medieval Britain, searching the dung of the extinct Aurochs and visit Deal sandhills with Commander JJ Walker before it was developed into a golf course. 

“I also give tours at the museum”

Another aspect of my job is public engagement, talking to people about the Museum and the collections, giving behind the scenes tours and hosting visitors and researchers. I can generally manage to slip in a dung beetle anecdote or two. I get requests for help with insect identification, sometimes a blurry photograph in an e-mail, sometimes a dead ‘thing’ in a jar left at the front desk. These can be challenging, but always fun and sometimes surprising. One person contacted me with a picture of a European rhinoceros beetle found in their garden moth trap. This 5cm long beetle was probably imported with plants from Italy to the local garden centre and flew a few hundred metres to their garden. If our climate gets warmer, one day it may become established like so many other introduced insects.

Beetle expert Darren Mann talks to Whizz Pop Bang science magazine about his love of insects and how he got his job as a collections manager at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Darren at work. Photo: Darren Mann

“If you want to become an entomologist, enthusiasm is so important.”

You could join clubs and societies that are relevant to your interests. It helps you meet with likeminded people, gives you access to a magazine and website full of the latest news and articles, and shows prospective employers that you are dedicated to your subject, especially if you have been a member for a long time.

I have read hundreds of application forms and interviewed lots of people. Those that make it to my short list are there because their interest and enthusiasm shines through. Applying for jobs can be quite nerve wracking but never over embellish your CV or exaggerate claims at interview. If you don’t know the answer, say so and then make an educated guess. You are more likely to earn respect by being honest and showing you can apply some lateral thinking or problem-solving skills. 

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History’s incredible insect collection is free to visit – find out more here!


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Watch a water spider in action!

If you’re wondering how arachnids breathe underwater, you won’t believe this spider’s amazing trick!

Perhaps you’ve been reading about this smart insect in Whizz Pop Bang: Splash! Want to find out more? It’s on sale in our shop!

Tiny water spiders spend their lives underwater, even though they need to breathe air! They collect large air bubbles from the surface and carry them underwater. The bubbles absorb oxygen from the water, meaning each can last more than a day! If you catch one pond dipping, look for a silvery air bubble clinging to its hairy body.

This water spider, or diving bell spider, has a nifty trick for breathing underwater!


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