Working with What I Had

The swarm of termites had taken over two windows and counters of the row along the east side of my new classroom. They looked perfectly happy and busy there. What is a teacher to do?

It was 8:30 a.m. and a new class of fifth and sixth grade students should all be arriving before 9:00 a.m. I had been teaching here at Hobart School in Los Angeles for many years, and this was the first day of school after summer vacation. The classroom itself was a modular building that had just been brought and installed on grounds the day before.

At 9:00 a.m. I had the students all lined up by the windows and counters, studying the swarm. I told them about the workers following the queen, and that they were looking for a new home. Then I sent the children to their desks and passed out dictionaries. I had them look up “termites” and other related words, and after reading silently had different students take turns reading the information out loud.

Those first few days I used the chalkboard and had the children learn the life cycle, the body parts, the digestive process, and each drew a diagram of the termite. The children were fascinated. After a week or so the termites decided to move on.

This may well have been what prompted me, years later, to give the following presentation at our Second Annual Head Start Conference in the Sierra Foothills:




presents to the

Madera County Community Action Agency

2nd Annual Head Start Conference
on April 6 & 7, 2000


  • We will explore how to use insects in the areas of music and movement, art activities, literature and science books, and math. We will sort , classify, count, and graph. We will emphasize observation and experimentation in science. We will help the children learn to trust or mistrust their natural environment.


  • Present the structure of insects, bugs, spiders, moths, and butterflies
  • Present the Life Cycle of butterflies and moths
  • Discuss which insects are helpful and which are harmful, and how we behave with them.
  • Discuss that many peoples eat insects, and that they are a source of protein.
  • Observation: With magnifying glasses look for bugs and spiders in the yard.
  • Collect caterpillars and watch them turn into pupae and butterflies.


  • Using the facts of three body parts for insects, two for spiders, six legs for insects, eight legs for spiders, develop art experiences with paper, play dough, drawings, food, and any other materials at hand to have the children count and discern those numbers.
  • Using pictures, stamps, drawings, cut-outs develop graphs related to the children’s interests.
  • Sort toy insects, or pictures, according to kinds, or varieties, number of legs, or number of wings, or color, or habitats, or size.
  • Using a picture of a ladybug beetle, have the children add spots on one wing to match the ones in place—by shape and number.


  • Introduce Eric Carles’ The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Quiet Cricket
  • Introduce Cynthia Pierce’s What’s in the Garden
  • Introduce other available books

Music and Movement

  • Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me (with Gunny sack dance)
  • The Bee and the Pup (with rhythm instruments)
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider (with variety of voice)
  • Your Tongue is a Caterpillar
  • I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
  • Old Mac Bug
  • Little Miss Muffet

Food Art Insect Inspired

  • Caterpillar: Three cucumber slices on a plate for the body.
  • Thin slices of bell pepper for antennae. Add two raisins for eyes.
  • Bug: 3 or 4 inches of banana, with fried noodles to add as legs, antennae, and other design. Raisins for spots and eyes.


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