Tuesday, November 23, 2010

creating insect habitats for bug mad preschoolers

Boys on a bug hunt - this is a common scene at preschool.
Bugs and potions are the passions of the moment for many of our preschoolers: lets hope for the sake of  the bugs that the children don't find a way to combine the two.
We are forever debating the ethics of our children catching bugs.  On one hand we don't want to crush the children's natural curiosity and on the other hand we don't want them to crush the bugs.

We have a rule:  it is okay to catch bugs in containers but once caught and observed they need to be released back where they were found.

We talk about this rule.  The children can explain to you the reasons behind it.  They will all nod and agree that they don't want to harm the bugs.  Nod and agree that they don't want to be bitten by poisonous insects.  Nod and agree that they wouldn't like to be carried around all day in a plastic container if they were a bug.

But their innate curiosity and interest in living creatures is strong, and they can be nodding and agreeing one moment and sneaking insects into their lockers to take home the next.

One day as I felt my frustration mounting after trotting out this rule all morning to the same group of children I had an Oprah "ah ha" moment.  I remembered a comment left on this post by Donna from Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning:

When we bought plants for the "Hush Garden" the pots came in a tray with holes in the bottom which we have sunk into our bug garden and encourage the children to put their mini beasts in there so they can "keep" them ... and no we haven't told them there are holes in the bottom of the tray ... does that make us mean?!

"Let's make a bug world" I suggested to the kids.  And then we were off!

The extra layers to our worm farm (sturdy circular plastic containers with holes in the bottom) proved perfect for the project.  We half dug them into the ground in a shady spot:

Filled them with dirt:

Added some bark, sticks and rocks:

And enclosed the area with logs from around the playground: 

I have to say, if ever you want anything done quickly you can't go past a group of interested preschoolers.  These guys had this knocked up fast!

Next came the signs:

 Which were taped to a stick dug into the ground:

And written on the wood surrounding the bug worlds:

All that was left to do was to add our first residents to the bug world.

And books on insects were found to help us identify the bugs.

This is my absolute favorite thing about teaching and the emergent curriculum.  An idea sparked by the children's interest takes off, and you are carried along by their enthusiasm, energy and engagement.

Scenes like this one of the proud builders of bug world sitting waiting to share their creations with their families at home time warm the cockles of my teacher heart:

It may not be the perfect solution, but I am more comfortable with bugs in bug world than bugs in hot little hands or plastic containers.

If you like the idea of bug worlds you may also be interested in previous posts on bug hotels here and here.

Or in this interesting idea to add to your outdoor playspace (I apologise but I can't for the life of me remember where they came from):


  1. hi! lovely blog... i run an accredited at home daycare in Alberta Canada and have always had bug lovers !
    Bug play is always a big favorite ! Right now in the program i have travellers ! Our playstand is transformed everyday into a plane going to Africa, a bus going to a near by City, and A camper driving to Quebec to camp ! Amazing, amazing, amazing... great job on the blog - it is very inspiring..

    light and peace

  2. What a great idea for managing their interest in insects which as can sometimes be a little over-enthusiastic. Thanks for the idea!

  3. There's something very sacred about little worlds created by our small little citizens. They still know what it's like to be small in a big place perhaps. I look forward to reading more about discoveries or moments found in bug world. What a wonderful aha moment you had.

  4. My kids built a bug world this summer & absolutely loved it. I was glad the bugs stayed outside & they were excited to look for new visitors every time we headed outside.

  5. This is one of the most important blogs that I have seen, keep it up!bed bug bites

  6. Making a bug catcher can be a nice and easy way of collecting interesting small bugs (but not the dangerous ones, like wasps, bees, etc) and can be very educational for children. Bug catchers made using simple household items can take as little as 20-30 minutes and can be reused over and over again. See more http://survival-mastery.com/diy/useful-tools/how-to-make-a-bug-catcher.html