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Learning insect variety while exploring science with kids

Some may have wings, others antenna, and some may have little spots. But they all have something in common: they are insects and they are tiny. Most of them rest on trees, bushes, flowers, or water.

Bugs are often found in many places around the home, parks and other sites. These small insects, whether friendly or not, live in many different habitats. But do we know how many of these different species of insects are around?

For instance, you might find flies, praying mantis, beetles, treehoppers, and ants crawling, hopping on trees or bushes.  These tiny little bugs have long legs to help them jump from one branch to another.

Other bugs like butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and ladybugs like to swiftly fly to get around. They don’t need long legs to get around since they have beautiful wings to help them travel from one place to another. Actually, they have tiny little legs. However, they are some bugs such as bees and wasps that can fly from one flower to another but they also sting as a way to defend themselves from predators.

Insects have special physical characteristics that make them unique. They have three particular parts: a head, thorax, and abdomen. Every little insect has these specific characteristics. But they differ in size, color, and shape between species.

Where do you find bugs? These special bugs like crickets, mosquitoes, and often grasshoppers can be seen on ponds, lakes, and rivers. Many of these bugs need a water source to survive. Other bugs like to nest in hives or bushes.

Hence, these bugs are often seen hopping along or flying about a water source. Did you know that antenna in some of these bugs are for detecting the surroundings in their environment? If you observe closely, you might see antenna on butterflies, bees, and ants.

Magnifying glasses are powerful tools to explore insects in their natural habitat. They provide an amazing opportunity to enlarge the vision of what you see. If you have a science journal, it is also a magnificent way to jot down the insects you can encounter.

Are you ready to explore? Just remember that whenever you explore nature, be kind to the life you find and always have an adult with you at all times. Remember you’re exploring their little homes in nature and we don’t want to disturb their living space. Of course, as good explorers, you should always write down your findings on your science journal or you can use the free worksheet found in the science section.

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Metamorphosis: Life cycle of a butterfly

Some of the simplest processes in nature are the most beautiful to observe. Metamorphosis is one of those particular natural changes. The physical changes that some animals endure are spectacular.

In fact, the metamorphosis = metamorfosis of a butterfly is one of the most fascinating common changes in nature.

By definition, metamorphosis is the physical change or transformation in the appearance of particular animals. This physical change can also lead to adaptations to new habitats and behaviors.

Figure 1

In particular, butterflies undergo the change from

egg = huevo

caterpillar = oruga

chrysalis = crisálida

butterfly = mariposa

In certain conditions, butterflies will lay eggs on leaves of milkweed flowers or other wildflowers. In about 3-5 days, the little egg = huevo is ready to hatch. As soon as the eggs start to break, tiny small caterpillars emerge (Figure 2). Within minutes, these hairy-like worms will start to eat the shell of its egg and the leaves around it. It will spend most of its time, eating and conserving energy. And it will remain in the vicinity of where it was born.

Figure 2

The caterpillar = oruga will multiply in size very rapidly (Figure 2). It has eyes to detect only light and darkness, but it uses its tentacles as the sensory guide. It breathes through little holes called spiracles. They also produce a silky substance necessary for molting. Some caterpillars may have colorful stripes that will determine the colors in a butterfly.

Figure 3

During the molting stage, caterpillars will expel a silky skin four times. As the caterpillar comes close to the end of the molting stage, it will find a secure place to begin the next stage. At this moment, caterpillars hang in a J-shape like form (Figure 3) from a secure branch of a tree or shrub. This last expulsion of skin represents the growing caterpillar is close to the next stage: the chrysalis = crisálida.

Figure 4

During the chrysalis stage (Figure 4), the caterpillar is inside this protected housing ready for the physical change. At this part of the metamorphosis process, the chrysalis is now a pupa. Within the pupa = pupa, the wings of the butterfly, the antennas, and the proboscis are being formed.

As the pupa becomes more and more transparent in appearance, the butterfly = mariposa is ready to emerge. After 10-14 days, a beautiful butterfly is ready to spread its wings. At first, its wings are wet and will wait until they’re dry to uncurl its proboscis to drink the nectar from a nearby flower (figure 1). Then, it will spend most of its time finding a mate to continue the life cycle of the butterfly.

To learn more about butterflies, check out the Science Worksheet section and the 5 great places to find butterflies around the United States.

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Strategies for organizing successful science projects

The organization of a school science project consists of several areas. The student should research the topic of interest before assembling and displaying the science project. This should be a priority. The topic of interest is simply the subject that the student is fascinated by. With effective and concise research and strong references, students can possess an award winning science project. Research on the topic of interest should require discipline and thorough investigation. The student should be prepared for any unexpected questions from judges, educators or spectators. The main components of a school science project are:

  • title and author
  • hypothesis
  • materials
  • results
  • discussion
  • conclusions
  • references

Title and Author (Título y Autor)

In this section, the student should clearly state the title of the science project. The title should have concise keywords to provide enough information about the project. Some science committees provide the specific rules and regulations.

  • Avoid long titles.
  • Avoid words difficult to pronounce or read.
  • Avoid calligraphy font.
  • Use clear, large font.

It should also display the principal author or authors that contributed to the project.

  • The main author is always listed first followed by subsequent authors.
  • Avoid listing authors in alphabetical order unless otherwise stated.
  • In the scientific field, authors are listed in a hierarchy manner.

Hypothesis (Hipótesis)

This is the main idea of the science project. Very often, it correlates with the title of the science project. Actually, it is almost always stated in a form of a question.

A hypothesis is an educated guess. It is the main question that the student is asking about the topic of interest. Hence, the hypothesis is the scientific question whether it can be proved or not.

If research was done thoroughly, then the hypothesis question can easily be formed. Almost always, hypothesis emerges from researching about the topic of interest.

Materials (Materiales)

This section simply states the items used for the science project. It should clearly list the items necessary for another student to repeat the experiments. This provides the validity and precision of the experiments and the scientists. Experiments are sometimes repeated many times for accuracy and precision.

  • Be specific in listing the materials used.
  • Use the metric system when describing any type of measurement.
  • Use numerical or bullet form to list items.
  • Avoid long descriptions.

Results (Resultados)

Depending on the length of the experiments necessary to test the hypothesis, then results can be developed. This section simply states the findings according to the experiments conducted by the student. Many times in science, the experiments may or may not go as planned. And that is perfectly fine. But be sure to state the facts not opinions.

  • Avoid biased statements.
  • Be clear about the findings.
  • Avoid statements that start with ‘this didn’t work’.
  • Avoid blaming science partners (if any) if experiments failed. Failed experiments may not necessarily mean a negative.
  • Use concise words to describe events.
  • Use the past tense to describe experiments.
  • Use complete sentences to describe results.

Discussion (Discusión)

Although sometimes omitted, this section provides a brief description of the experiments performed. Students can elaborate by discussing any drawbacks in experiments. But avoid making personal statements.

Conclusions (Conclusión)

This part of the science project basically informs the reader about the summary of the experiments and hypothesis. Here, a clear statement is made. The student should state whether the hypothesis was proven or not, according to experiments performed.

  • Avoid unambiguous statements.
  • Be specific.
  • Avoid all positive statements.
  • Use short complete sentences.

References (Referencias)

This section entails the main works that students used to research and develop experiments. Students should follow MLA or APA formats, if necessary. In organizing science reports, five steps should be followed for a more comprehensive and concise project.

After all the dedication and hard work, students should be proud of such a great achievement. In putting effort into your own work, it requires discipline and self-motivation. These are wonderful traits any student should be proud of and provides a successful future for other science projects.