Lesson Plan

Insect Design

Selection from the Insect Workbook - kinds of legs

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Science
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
K.RI.1, K.RI.2, K.RI.4, K.RI.5, K.RI.7, K.RI.10, 1.RI.1, 1.RI.4, 1.RI.5, 1.RI.6, 1.RI.7, 2.RI.1, 2.RI.4, 2.RI.5, 2.RI.7, 3.RI.1, 3.RI.2, 3.RI.4, 3.RI.5, 3.RI.7, 4.RI.1, 4.RI.3, 4.RI.4, 4.RI.7, 5.RI.1, 5.RI.2, 5.RI.4
State Standards:
Colorado Science:
K 2.1
1st grade 2.2
2nd grade 2.2
4th grade 2.1

Colorado Visual Arts: K-4th grade 3.1
Additional Standards:
Next Generation Science Standards
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
K-2: 1-LS1-1.A
3-5: 3-LS1-1
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words.


Students will be able to identify common insects at Great Sand Dunes while also understanding the general external morphology of insects.


Over one thousand species of insects live in the greater Great Sand Dunes ecosystem. They live in the sand, soils, forests, rivers, lakes, grasslands, and on the tops of the mountains. Just about anywhere you go, you will find insects.

Because extensive fields of sand have been in this area for thousands of years, a number of insects have become specially-adapted to live in the sandy environment. Seven species of insects are known to be endemic to the dunefield and sand sheet ecosystems.

This lesson concentrates on Great Sand Dunes insects and their general external morphology. A 16-page workbook is available for students grades 3-5, and a 12-page coloring book is available for younger students. Find My Critter is a good follow-up activity for third to fifth grade students. Endemic Insects is a good follow-up for sixth to eighth grade students.


For each student, prepare one copy of the Insect Workbook(grades 3 to 6) or the Insect Coloring Book for younger students. These printable Adobe Acrobat files are designed to be printed back-to-back, folded, and stapled in proper order. Page 2 is printed on the back of page 1, page 4 is printed on the back of page 3, etc. You may wish to print each sheet out and then use a photocopier to collate the booklets.



Appropriate for grades K-2, or struggling readers. Students learn about insect anatomy through coloring and diagrams.

Download Insect Coloring Book

Appropriate for grades 3-5, or advanced readers. Students learn more in depth about insects through sort readings, coloring, and diagrams.

Download Insect Workbook


Discuss the concepts described above and provide each student one workbook or one coloring book. Older students will have the chance to invent their own insect. Provide students drawing and coloring materials.

Once completed, post workbooks on a bulletin board so that students can see the variety of invented insects (booklet, page 14). Afterward, students who are interested may present their invented insect to the class. Be sure they describe how their insects' specialized parts are used in they way they live/eat.

The following information is for extension activities.

Insect Basics

Insects have three main body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have six legs. Most insects have compound eyes and antennae for smelling and feeling. Many also have wing variations for flight.

Insects belong to the invertebrate branch of the animal kingdom-"invertebrate" means animals without backbones. Insects have no endoskeleton (internal skeleton) but they have an exoskeleton (external structural covering). They are in the subgroup, arthropods, which are cold-blooded animals with jointed legs. Entomologists, who are scientists who study insects, think that we have discovered only about half of these important creatures.

The following background information is primarily for the extension activity.

Insect Mouth Parts

An insect's mouth parts have evolved and changed to allow different kinds of insects to eat in different ways. The head section of an insect has three pairs of mouth parts which have evolved to serve as teeth, tusks, tongues, tongs, talons, tweezers, chisels, pliers, claws, jaws, saws, and straws. In general, the first pair of mouth parts serves to crush, like teeth. The second serves to grasp, like tongs. The third set probes and tastes like a tongue. Therefore, insects possess three sets of modified jaws for specialized eating techniques.

There are two basic types of insect mouth parts, those adapted for biting and chewing and those adapted for sucking. Many insects have variations or combinations of these two.

Biting and chewing insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and cockroaches have two grinding mouths called mandibles. They are usually lined with teeth and move sideways. They also often have pinchers or mandibles that cut and tear off food. They can often have a second pair of jaws behind the mandibles called maxillae. Maxillae are used to push the food down the throat. Biting and chewing insects have lips. The upper lip is called the labrum and the lower lip is called the labium.

Sucking insects have adapted mouth parts to suit their eating habits. In insects such as the mosquito, the labium has become a grooved beak with four sharp needles called stylets. These are used for piercing and then sucking. The mandible has become a long sucking tube called a proboscis in butterflies and moths. Honey bee mandibles perform a combination of chewing and lapping. The housefly simply sponges its food.

In the larvae of the the Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle, the first pair of mandibles has developed into tusk-shaped pinchers. The larva lies at the base of its burrow waiting for a meal to pass by. Its tusks can snap shut like a trap, grabbing and stabbing its meal, usually another insect. The larva then drags its prey down into the tunnel where it uses its mandibles to eat at leisure.


definitions found in materials

abdomen, antenna, camouflage, endemic, habitat, labium, labrum, mandibles, maxillae, predator, prey, species, thorax

Enrichment Activities

Find My Critter is a good follow-up activity for third to fifth grade students. Endemic Insects is a good follow-up for sixth to eighth grade students.

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Last updated: July 24, 2015