Reviewed by Linda Schoen-Giddings
Science Consultant - SCDoE
Young children have a normal curiosity about their natural environment. Whether it is urban, suburban, or rural, it will contain insects of many different species. Before adults infuse children with prejudices against various insect species, most children enjoy observing, touching, and occasionally playing with the insects that they encounter. This insect curriculum guide utilizes a child's curiosity to learn about body structure and function, life cycles, habitats, migration, as well as important ecological roles insects have in the natural world.
The guide is directed toward children in grades K–4, although there are suggestions on how to adapt lessons to pre–K or for higher grade levels. There are 20 lessons which do not have to be taught consecutively and can be taught individually. This increases the usefulness of the curriculum since teachers can choose lessons to enhance topics which are relevant to their standards, allowing greater flexibility. It might also be of benefit not to teach the lessons consecutively since there are some inconsistencies between lessons. For example, the very start of the guide begins with insect anatomy and insects are identified as having 6 legs. In the next lesson on insect behavior an example of an insect eating is a caterpillar which young children may have difficulty identifying as an insect with 6 legs before there is any mention of metamorphosis and stages of development. It might be better to teach the metamorphosis lesson (lesson 3) before using caterpillars to exemplify insect behavior.
Each lesson has a section which includes background information that is extremely informative so teachers can feel comfortable teaching the unit. Life cycles and metamorphosis are concepts that are difficult for young children to grasp and this lesson was for grades K–2. Although there are worksheets for the children about metamorphosis, I think it critical that children have real–life experiences (either in the classroom or outdoors) with insects undergoing metamorphosis. Just role–playing the stages would not allow for true comprehension. Outside observations or classroom culture might be added to supplement the activity.
This curriculum guide may be useful for the teacher but to really engage students they must have hands–on learning with the actual insects. Then the classroom activities suggested, which range from simple worksheets, to journals, to writing about ecological conservation issues and mock town meetings, will have meaning and relevance. Many of the classroom lessons I surveyed did not have the children working with actual insects and therefore I believe this guide should be used for classroom activities in conjunction with actual experiential lessons.
I am recommending this curriculum guide as a supplement to these real world experiences. In addition, I have a grave concern about the anthropomorphic depiction of insects. This is a science book, not a trade book for general audiences. There is no place in a science book for pictures of insects holding utensils or signs or wearing clothing. These types of illustrations lead to misconceptions by both students and teachers, who may think that cutesy pictures of animals wearing clothing is fine since an NSTA book showed that. Insects don’t need to wear sunglasses to be interesting characters.
Review posted on 7/26/2012