One of my favourite nature activities to do with kids is to head out and set some humane traps whether it’s to see what mammals are around using Longworth traps or using pitfall traps to investigate the bugs that can you can in different microhabitats around your home or even school. As this month’s theme for The Wild Challenge is all about bugs and my eldest in his science lessons is studying habitats pitfall traps are the perfect activity to investigate the minibeasts around your home.
Materials Needed for your Pitfall Traps
Tray to empty your minibeasts into
Bug Identification Guide for your area
Setting Pitfall Traps
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Investigating the Minibeasts
Once you have left the pitfall trap over night it’s time to investigate what minibeasts you have found. I have found it easy to adapt this with your children and older children and include both scenarios below.
Looking at the minibeasts with young children
With young children they will need a lot of support to identify the minibeasts that you have found in the pitfall traps. I like to start with obvious differences and work down to giving the creatures general names.
So you may start with how many legs does it have? If it has 6 legs it’s an insect, 8 legs a spider or arachnid and more or less them it’s a different sort of bug.
See if they can identify any straight off – is it an ant? worm? wood lice?
Using something like a Minibeast Viewer (available from the RSPB store in the UK or using our affiliate link from Amazon.com in the USA) you can look at the bug in more detail and then use a basic Bugs Identification book to narrow it down.
Check out more Bug Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers that you can read together – both non-fiction and fiction
Looking at the minibeasts with older children
With older children, you can introduce concepts of classification with families and species levels especially with some of the minibeasts that you may find.
It’s also interesting to compare and contrast habitats – so although we have suggested in the video above that you set the tap in a shady damp area – you could find different areas around your home or school and set them too. A good combination is – flower beds, vegetable patches, underneath trees and bushes, in open grass and alongside footpaths.
When emptying the contents count and collate the different types of animals that you see – this can be repeated a number of times and then use the information to produce charts and analyse the results.
As a secondary science teacher, this was always the highlight of the habitats units and the students loved investigating them.
Find more Nature and Outdoor Activities for children to enjoy year round.
If you would like a complete lesson plan for this to use at home, in the field or in the classroom you can download the key stage 2 (3rd and 4th grade) lesson plan with objectives, background knowledge, lesson outline. The Older children lesson plan will be sent out at a later date. Just sign up for our Learning with Nature Lesson Plans
Get our Complete Minibeasts Lesson Plan
Full lesson plan for this Minibeasts Habitat investigation activity aimed at Year 3 and 4 children (3rd and 4th Grade). Including
- Background Knowledge
- Learning Objectives
- Equipment List
- Suggestions for Recording and presenting results
You can find more ideas on investigating minibeasts in your back garden or school over on the RSPB site including how to go on a Bug Safari and make your own Bug Pooter to collect more bug samples.
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