(4th grade, 30-45 min)


The student will use problem solving techniques and critical thinking skills in order to construct and maintain a home specifically suited to his/ her insect pet. The overall goals of this activity are to familiarize the student with ecologically-based concepts such as niche, habitat and survival requirements of insects and to reinforce the importance of observation in the scientific method of problem solving.

Science TEKS (grade 4)

* Complex systems and parts 5a: identify and describe roles of organisms in living systems and parts in nonliving objects

*Complex systems and parts 5b: predict and draw conclusions when part of a system is removed

*Critcial thinking. problem solving, and decision making 3c: represent then natural world using models, identify limitations


various sizes and shapes of plastic containers (suggestions include 2-liter bottles, juice containers, ice cream buckets, etc)


clear packing tape

netting (pantyhose, tulling, screen, cheesecloth)

markers (permanent)

other odds and ends such as beads, game pieces for decoration


The student should have previously caught an insect so that the home created is for that insect. The teacher may need to aid in cutting, gluing, or taping of materials if child wishes to connect more than one container.


Have students draw their family house as they see it; that is, have them create a blue print for their home. Then discuss what things they all have in common and why these things are included in most homes. Discuss some of the differences and the benefits or drawbacks these would have in other homes.


The student is to create a home for his/ her insect using recyclable materials. The child may use one container or attach several containers together. The student will need to come up with a method for opening and closing the container without losing the organism. A watering system and feeding will need to be devised based on the requirements of the species. Decorations may be added with markers or gluing game pieces or construction paper cut outs onto the containers. In a subsequent activity, the student will search for and add the necessary materials for the insect to live in its 'condo': grass, leaves, water, other live insects, bedding materials, etc.


Remind student s to be careful with scissors. Glass containers can be used with older students, but plastic works better. The instructor needs to caution students on the type of insect they wish to catch and keep.


The teacher can show students some examples of other condos from other students or ones he/she has done after the kids have begun building. While students are working, begin discussing what kinds of things should be placed in these condos for their individual insects: types of food, how it will get water, how to clean the container. Also, discuss how this home will be related to the insect's natural habitat.


Students may wish to extend this activity by creating an entire 'apartment complex' for several different insects. Students would have to develop a structure that would maintain different levels of a habitat. It is possible for students to create a self maintaining structure which would represent an enclosed ecosystem. This structure could then be used to illustrate the long range effects humans have when disruption of an ecosystem occurs. For additional related activities, refer to

Bottle Biology by Mrill Ingram.


The students will be asked to explain how their structures fit with their insects. The students will need to discuss how they solved the problem of housing a small animal and how feeding and watering will occur. The explanations will indicate if the students have understood the importance habitat, food, and shelter have for an organism. The condominium discussions should also indicate he use of desired critical thinking and thought processing patterns.


English: students can write out in words how to create the home; have another student interpret those instructions and compare results

Math: students can calculate volume; if they were to build this house to their size, students can work with proportions and geometry

History: skyscrapers or multilevel buildings can be discussed, why some parts of the country have many storied homes and other parts have single storied; discuss famous architects and/ or architectural feats (Wright, expansion bridges, Statue of Liberty); discussion of indoor inventions to make houses more livable such as indoor plumbing, refrigeration, storm windows, lightening rods

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