Add Some Nature to Your Library Centers with Ladybugs

I​t's chilly outside ​in the Northeast, but spring is just around the corner, and that means it's time to bring some nature literacy and animal life cycle research to our school's library centers!

Every year, I look forward to introducing the ladybug terrarium center to curious students​ who may have limited experience with actual live animals.  Showing students how to observe and research ladybugs through their life cycle ​fulfills two ​goals I'm passionate about:

  1. Introducing students to ​​nature's wonders, e.g. metamorphosis, and
  2. Teaching ​research and information fluency skills through inquiry.

My students are entranced by the ladybug larvae, and immediately start ​asking questions like "How come they aren't red?"​ and "​​Why they don't look like ladybugs?"  With a little encouragement, they ​turn those questions into a highly engaging inquiry-based research process!

Here's how it works:

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​​The Ladybug ​Research​ Center in action:

A light-skinned female hand is holding a red and black spotted magnifying glass over the label of a Ladybug Land terrarium with a light wood background. Scattered in front of the terrarium are the ladybug life cycle plastic models of eggs on a leaf, larvae, pupa, and adult ladybug life stages.

What Your Students are Learning and Doing:

Students observe the ladybugs in a sealed terrarium.  Students take notes about their observations, and think of at least 2 questions that they are curious about.  

​Then, students use library resources (both print and digital) to find the answer to their questions, and cite their sources.  Citation requirements vary by grade level, but by 5th grade, ​1 or 2 complete citations in MLA format is appropriate.

Center ​Prep Tip: After I put the ladybugs in the terrarium, I put clear ​tape all around the edges and on the bottom to make sure there are no escapees.  ​:)

The Ladybug Terrarium Research Center and materials sitting on a light oak table: items include center sign with student directions, 2 live ladybug terrariums, 3 printed Ladybug Research Notebooks, 6 small magnifying glasses, a small Android tablet, a black inkpad, and 4 ladybug life cycle stamps

​How Students are Assessed:

Students hand in their Ladybug Research Notebook to the teacher-librarian or classroom teacher for grading or just for feedback.

Each research question could be worth 3 - 5 points: 1 point for the correct answer, 1 point for each resource (citation or just title, author, and/or web address), and 1 point for proving a resource's reliability and trustworthiness.

What You (the Teacher-Librarian) are Doing:

During the library class, all you need to do is walk around the room to monitor student behavior and help students who have questions about the assignment.  That's probably no different than any other library class though.  By staying mentally engaged ​throughout the class period, you can provide individualized support to students as they need it, and make accommodations for students with special needs on the fly.

What You Need (see Amazon Idea List):

More Helpful Resources:

My favorite print books about ladybugs -

My favorite ebooks, apps, and databases - ​

Library Centers Management Tracking ​Booklets / Menus and Learning Badge Stickers - printable booklet for each student OR

Library Centers ​DIGITAL Menu / Tracker with Learning Badges - a digital way ​to track ​students' progress through a center assignment and/or keep students accountable for their center choices using Google Classroom or Google Drive.

5 nonfiction books about ladybugs written for elementary students are displayed on a wooden table

More Featured Librarian​s in the February 2019 Blog Hop​:

Vertical collage of 2 images: The top image shows the Ladybug Observation and Research Center set up on a light wood table with library center sign, a terrarium of live ladybugs, 6 magnifying glasses, 3 Ladybug Observation & Research Notebooks, and a tablet. The bottom image shows 5 nonfiction books about ladybugs, and the caption at the bottom reads "Nature Library Centers with Ladybugs Research"

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Mrs. J in the Library

Collette J., or Mrs. J in the Library, is a full-time elementary teacher-librarian, blogger, and mama from Pennsylvania. She loves technology, books in any format, makerspaces, and all things Harry Potter. The information and opinions represented here are her own and are not the views and opinions of any business or organization.

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2 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    This is such an awesome idea! What a great way to make research more exciting for students!

    • Yes, my goal is always to make things more fun and exciting, especially when teaching research. We know it’s probably not our students’ first choice for activities, so I like to make it as engaging as possible.