INVESTIGATION OF SOIL - DWELLERS
- Insects and Other Arthropods
- Plant seeds.
- Explore planting seeds outdoors.
- Investigate soil dwellers (or soil - dwelling arthropods) with a magnifying glass.
- insect box magnifiers, 1 small box for every 2 students; a few large box magnifiers with mirror (to view the bottom of an insect)
- hand lenses
- small paper plates
- seeds of cool - season crops like beets, lettuce, broccoli, chard, kale
- plant labels
- insect guides
- National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Insects, Scholastic, 1998
- Peterson First Guide to Insects, Houghton Mifflin, 1998
- Insect guides, including these two, often include brief introductions to non-insects commonly confused with insects.
- Buy seeds and familiarize yourself with the planting instructions for each.
- Determine where to plant the seeds in the garden and how much space to allot them.
- Check seed spacing and planting depth requirements. See Planting Seeds for tips.
- Gather color pictures of the vegetables to be started from seed.
- Try out the insect box magnifiers.
- Familiarize yourself with the insect guide.
- Identify an area that can be used for journaling or bug study.
- Find a spot in the garden where you'll be able to scoop up a small amount of soil that's teeming with critters. There's usually a lot of activity right at the soil surface, especially in quiet shady areas where the soil is covered with leaf litter. If the weather is dry, water a small spot on the day before the session and cover it with cardboard or plywood to attract some small animals.
- Map out how the activities will unfold. Depending on the number of adults and children and the size of the garden, it's often a good idea to combine a gardening task such as planting with another less structured activity. In this session, teams of 2 or 3 children take turns planting seed with one adult, while the other children investigate bugs accompanied by another adult.
Explore planting vegetable seeds
If the children have planted seeds before, either indoors or outdoors, show a seed packet
Pick up on the children's answers to review the key points of seed starting. When planting vegetable seeds one should know at least three things about the seeds:
Some seeds can be planted outdoors in early spring. They germinate when the soil is still cool. Other seeds are planted later in spring or in early summer. Or they can be started indoors where it is warm.
Show a picture of the vegetable(s) you will plant today
Introduce the other activity to the whole group: hunt for bugs that live near ground level.
- In the soil
- In the grass
- Under a rock
- In the leaf litter
- In the trees
Introduce the insect guide.
The insect guide has descriptions of many different kinds of insects (and non-insects). It also has pictures. When you find an animal that you don't know the pictures in the guidebook can help you find out what type of creature it may be. Hand out the insect guides and invite students to look through them. (Depending on the number of copies they may need to share).
Find one thing you can learn about that particular type of bug from the guide.
IS THAT AN INSECT?
All adult insects have six legs originating on the thorax, or midsection, of a body that is divided into three parts. Insects have one pair of antennae. They are the only invertebrates (animals without backbones) that can fly.
Earthworms are larger animals and easy to see with one's eyes.
- a magnifying glass
- it shows small things larger
Show a small insect box magnifier: The lid has a magnifying glass in it.
Show a large insect box magnifier with mirror. Look through the top to see the animal from above. Look through the side to see the animal's underside - reflected by the mirror.
HAVE BOTH ACTIVITIES UNFOLD
A few children start planting seed with one adult, while the other children start investigating bugs with another adult and the field guides.
If the children have planted other seeds in previous weeks, observe how the vegetable plants in the garden have grown (or not). Invite the children to look closely at the areas where they have planted seed.
SEED GERMINATION UP CLOSE
When the seed germinates, it uses the energy stored inside it to first grow a root and then a shoot. As soon
as the shoot breaks through the soil, it can start photosynthesizing and make energy for the new plant to grow
above and below ground. Many seedlings "elbow" out of the ground, that's to say they push the soil out of the
way with the stem doubled up, then straighten up once the shoot is out of the ground and the seed leaves unfurl.
The seed leaves look quite different from the plant's proper leaves that come out afterwards. Sometimes,
the seed coat still clings to a seed leaf when it first emerges. Take a look!
Plant seeds in the garden.
- Show the group where the seeds are going to be planted. Mark the spots with prewritten plant labels now
or place the labels at the end.
- Review seed spacing and planting depth Small seeds can be sprinkled across the area and lightly covered. See lettuce seeding for detail. Larger seeds are commonly planted one - by - one, in rows or in other patterns. See beet seeding, chard and kale seeding, and pea seeding for details.
- Pour a small amount of seed into one hand and demonstrate how to plant.
- Give each child (no more than 3 or 4 at a time) a pinch of seeds to do the same - each in a different spot.
- After all the seeding is done, cover the seeds with soil.
- Place plant labels with the name of the vegetable and the date.
- Water the newly seeded area. Water gently to avoid upsetting the seeds. They can be easily washed away
if a strong stream of water hits them.
Use an insect box magnifier - a bug box - to examine a critter that you find. Think about the size and type of bug you are putting into the box. Make sure it has room to walk around in the box. If the bug is very tiny you may be able to put more than one in a box, but avoid crowding too many critters together. Please don't put worms in a box because they may get crushed. Use a hand lens to examine worms.
- Point out the areas in the garden where it is okay to dig. Remind everyone to avoid stepping on garden
beds or upsetting plant roots. Find a spot with some leaf litter and moist soil.
- Scoop some soil onto a plate, then put a small amount of it into a small bug box.
- Invite children to investigate bug activity in the soil sample.
- Invite children to look for more bugs on their own and share what they find with each other.
- Bring a bug to the journaling area. Draw a picture of it in your journal with as much detail as you can.
- Look for the bug in the insect guide. You may not find the exact same one (there are many, many
different insects and other critters), but you may find one that looks similar. If you can, find a fact
or two about it in the guide and write it in your journal.
- Once you finish all these tasks you can try again with a different bug.
After each small group finishes both activities, invite the whole group to come together and share an experience.
In particular, invite students to share something they found out about a particular type of bug.
Students can read what they wrote in their journal or just say it.