Have you ever thought about how insects with 6 legs actually crawl? Human movement on two legs is pretty simple: left-right-left-right, but all insects have 6 legs attached to a thorax. In this activity, I ask students to observe an insect closely, usually a dubia roach in a beaker, but you could use any insect. Dubia roaches are sold on amazon, but a local pet store will be much cheaper, plus they are easy to keep in a classroom and can be used in other experiments and projects. I would also avoid using any type of insect that jumps, just because they are harder to handle and don’t tend to crawl with 6 legs like a roach or beetle crawls.
Students can do this type of activity as a first-day, getting to know you lesson or as part of a broader unit on insects or bioinspiration.
1. Students will start with an insect on their desk or lab tables, contained either in a beaker or a petri dish. As they filter into class, many of them will probably be curious about their new pet, give them time to explore while you get class started, though warn them not to let the insect out of its container.
2. Ask students to consider how a human moves (left-right-left-right) and tell them they are going to observe insects and determine how they move. Their task is to create a model of insect movement using three members of their group. (Groups can be 4 members, but only 3 will be needed as a model, since insects have 6 legs.)
*If students are having trouble visualizing how to model this, ask them how a dog walks and how you and another person could demonstrate that. You could even pick a volunteer and ask the class to make suggestions (left side then right side, front then back, left front – right back then right front – left back).
3. Each group will demonstrate the insect walk using three members of their group to represent the 6 legs of an insect.
Spoiler alert: Insects crawl using a tripod movement, the front and back left leg will be touching the ground and the middle leg on the right side will be touching the ground. Then it alternates. Your students may not all come to this conclusion, but I use this exercise as a basic “observation and communication” science practice. This year I plan to do this as a first-day activity so students in biology start on day one doing science. You can also have students upload a video of their group movements to a CMS.
As an extension, you can talk about Rhex, the 6 legged robot (hexapod) whose design was inspired by insects. This type of movement has been shown to be stable on rough terrain.
I love this. I have the same students for at least 3 years (teach 6-12 grade science at a private school). Love that this gets my new sixth graders thinking and processing on the first day. Also will let me establish my norms for lab safety, etc.
Insects have a weird way of crawling
Donna Davis, Shelbyville High School
My school is implementing a semester bio course similar to yours next year. We are going to use your website as a foundation to help us get started. I was wondering if you have a curriculum plan on file…how much time you spend on each unit. Also if a student takes this intro class would they then be able to take your bio 1 or bio 2 courses? I would like to also say thank you for all your hard work. You are truly amazing. Your website is my go to source. Thank you so much.
Many students do move on to Biology 1 and 2 after the intro class, depends on their interests and if they want to move to college track. Others, like vocational students, just want their credits and move on. I do not have a specific curriculum plan, I try to stay flexible, some topics end up getting more time if the students are interested. I’ve skipped sections before if time was short. I really look at the class as a “what students need to know as humans” and don’t worry about getting through everything. Since the class is not part of a larger sequence, I’m not pressured to get to a certain point. Hope this helps! You can also email me for faster response. m u s k o p f 1 at gmail.
Many students do move on to Biology 1 and 2 after the intro class, depends on their interests and if they want to move to college track. Others, like vocational students, just want their credits and move on.
Your website is a life saver for so many teachers. Thank you so much for your time.