Circle of Life 2.0

I am student teaching in a first grade classroom and we are going to start covering life cycles. What are some good ideas I can do in my engage section?
— G., Oklahoma

I just answered a similar question about teaching plant life cycles to Kindergarten students. Please refer to Circle of Life 1.0 . I will continue that article here by addressing animal life cycles in early years.

Animal reproduction takes more time than you may have during your practicum. However, there are a few hands-on activities that you may want to use. Obtain some mealworms from a pet store and ask if they can include some pupae and adults. (They might donate them if you tell them it’s for elementary students!) House these in lidless, clear plastic food containers with oatmeal. Mealworms are the grubs (larvae) of darkling beetles and they follow a life cycle like butterflies. Eggs of these beetles are almost impossible to find, but you can ask the students to conjecture how the larvae came about. Students can observe and journal the different life stages. Use magnifiers for real close ups!

If you have a budget and time, consider butterflies (purchased from science suppliers) or lady beetle larvae (available from some garden centers).

I don’t recommend raising mantids – they follow an incomplete metamorphosis cycle (no distinct change between young and adults and no pupal stage). They are predators and extremely cannibalistic. Stick insects also follow incomplete metamorphosis and may not be allowed in all regions, but their eggs are easy to find and they are very easy to feed.

Hope this helps!

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2 Responses to Circle of Life 2.0

  1. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Great choice Gabe! I wrote a bit about raising beetle larvae in an older blog post, “Beetles before butterflies,” at http://blog.nsta.org/2016/02/25/beetles-before-butterflies/
    (Apologies for the missing photos due to a blog platform update.)
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen stick insect eggs–something to learn about!

    • Gabe Kraljevic says:

      Thanks, Peggy! Mealworms are also great because they don’t need a lot of care. Just fill their housing with oatmeal and throw in an occasional apple core or carrot for moisture. The larvae are poor climbers and I have never seen the adult beetles fly, so they stay where they are. Change the food every few months.

      Indian stick insects are the most common in pet stores and their eggs look like tiny acorns!

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