When it comes to kids and bugs, there’s a magnetic attraction. While they may seem ho-hum to adults, pill bugs have a way of curling and uncurling that can keep a kid mesmerized; while a ladybug can charm a whole crowd.
Want to take advantage of these simple thrills while boosting math and science knowledge at the same time? Try taking a walk outdoors with your young biologist, and give her some practice observing, tallying, and categorizing the insects you find along the way.
Here’s a simple hands-on activity to try together.
What You Need for a Backyard Bug Count
A patch of bug-filled open space… yard, park, or neighborhood garden
*Note: You won’t need a jar. We’re simply observing and counting, not collecting the insects.
Start Observing and Counting Bugs!
Discuss with your child the type of insects he’d expect to find when you take your walk. He may suggest ants, bees, pill bugs, and butterflies.
Make a chart showing these insects, but also leave some blank spaces for any other bugs you find along the way.
Place the chart on a clipboard so you can walk around and take notes. Get outdoors, whether it’s your yard, a park, or a neighborhood garden.
Have your child make a tally mark in the appropriate column each time he spies an insect. You may want to add an “unknown insect” category to your chart, just in case you come across anything that’s not easily identifiable. While you’re walking, take time to observe the insects, noting their size and pattern of movement (flying, crawling, or both).
Make a bar graph to show the insects you found. List the types of bugs on the left, and then on the horizontal line, the y-axis, write numbers 0 to the greatest amount you tallied. Using your tally chart, help your child make bars to show the data. For example, if your data shows 4 bees, draw a bar to number 4 on the graph.
Continue until you and your child have represented all of the tally marks on the graph.
Discuss the data shown on the graph. Have your child tell you what each bar shows. Ask her which insects she saw most or least often.
Explain how bar graphs make your comparison of insects easy and fun–and they’re also a skill that will show up again and again in Big Kid Math!