It’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:
- Introducing students to nature’s wonders, e.g. metamorphosis, and
- 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 don’t they 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:
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. :)
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.
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.
- Ladybug Terrarium & Live Larvae from Insect Lore or Amazon (NOTE: The gift set product comes with models of each life stage, which will help students who learn best with hands-on, tactile experiences.)
- Small magnifying glasses for students to view the ladybugs up close (Target’s dollar bins sometimes has ladybug- or insect-themed ones in the spring.)
- Books about ladybugs at the center & ebooks, databases, and/or websites about ladybugs linked on your library website
- The Ladybugs Observation & Research PRINTABLE Center, OR the Ladybugs Observation & Research DIGITAL Center including center sign with directions to remind students, differentiated Ladybug Research Notebooks for students to record their research, and “How to Write a Resource Citation” help sheets
- Ladybug Larvae Refills from Insect Lore or Amazon – I recommend ordering new larvae every 3-4 weeks. The warmer your library gets, the faster the ladybugs will grow.
More Helpful Resources
- “The Life Cycle of a Ladybug” by Colleen Sexton – but watch that call number!
- “Ladybugs” by Gail Gibbons – a classic and good details
- “Are You a Ladybug?” by Judy Allen – simpler text, but good for 2nd or 3rd grade
- “Life Story of a Ladybug” by Charlotte Guillain (Capstone interactive ebook)
- PebbleGo Animals / Animales database (Capstone) and World Book Online (Kids or Student)
- “Ladybug at Orchard Avenue” by Smithsonian Institute – read-aloud, interactive ebook app for Apple and Google Play, great for using on library tablets
Optional: Library Centers Menu
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.