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Living things & the processes of life - Variety & characteristic features - Minibeasts - G11
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ISE 5-14 Curriculum Support Materials                                                           Overview advice

Group 11 exemplar Living things & the processes of life - Minibeasts   Minibeast Quiz  Classification   Relay game   Yes/No Game (Word)

1. The children will be very keen to collect minibeasts from their gardens and the playground. You should point out to them that these are living creatures and must be treated with consideration. If the children are going to collect creatures and bring them into school, you should show them how to set up a habitat for them in a margarine tub or similar container. Put some damp soil in the bottom of the tub and some fresh, moist leaves- preferably of the same type as the creature was found on) into the tub. A small leaf will give the creatures something to climb on. To keep the environment damp, a piece of wet kitchen towel can be folded into a small pad and placed on the soil.

A few holes punched in the top of the tub will allow air in although if the holes are too big the creatures may escape. A dry piece of kitchen towel over the top of the tub held in place with an elastic band would do as a substitute lid although not secure enough to survive a trip in a schoolbag!

Ideally you should collect some creatures from the school garden, if you have one, the playground or local park.

There are several easy methods of collecting minibeasts.

1. Lay a plastic sheet over a bare piece of soil and leave for a few days. You will find several minibeasts will make a home under it - worms, woodlice etc may all appear.

2. Lay a plastic sheet or tray under a bush and shake the bush. Creatures will fall out onto the sheet. This tends to produce a good variety of grubs and beetles (often hard to identify).

3. Sink yoghurt cartons with small holes in the bottom into the soil so that the top is level with the soil. Creatures will fall in and not be able to climb out again. Check the pots daily. (The technical name for this is "pit" or "pitfall" trapping).

4. Use a large net - some net curtain stapled around a metal coat-hanger would do - and sweep it across grass, plants and bushes to scoop up their occupants.

Note: All living things used in lessons should be put back where they were collected after use. Pupils should be encouraged to view living things a a precious resource to be disturbed as little as possible.

Once you have found some minibeasts, you may like to use a pooter to pick them up - fingers can easily squash a tiny creature.

The best minibeasts to find are probably snails, woodlice, worms, large beetles and spiders. Caterpillars may be about at certain times of the year.

If no suitable minibeasts can be found outside, many pet shops now sell live mealworms and crickets as food for pet reptiles. Molluscs such as mussels and clams can be bought (dead) from fishmongers.


Snails are very good for the children to examine since they can be found big enough to be easily seen. They have two eyes -the long stalks- and two stalks which sense smell. Imagine having eyes on stalks to look round corners! They secrete a sugary solution from just below their mouth which runs down their front and onto the ground just in front of where they are about to slide. This gives them a lovely low-friction surface and protects their foot from damage. If you hold a snail by its shell, slightly to one side, you may see its breathing hole just underneath the edge of the shell. They need a moist environment to move around in - remember this if you are going to let them slide along a tray or desk - moisten the surface first! (Possibilities for a little investigation here - which surface does a snail prefer to move over.) If conditions are too dry, they can seal themselves inside their damp shell using a little of the sugar solution to make a water-tight lid. When it becomes damp again, the lid dissolves and out they come again.

Large worms are easy to handle although they need a moist surface to move along. The children can watch them moving over a damp paper towel and use hand lenses to see the features on their bodies.


Worms have a head end and a tail end with a long gut visible between the two. They eat soil as they go along and break down any plant or waste organic material in it. By doing this they perform a composting task taking organic material from the surface down into the ground and turning it into soil. They breathe through pores in their skin and can drown if the soil gets waterlogged - thus their appearance on the surface when it has been raining. Their body is marked in segments and each segment has two pairs of bristles ("setae") which the worm uses to grip the soil and pull itself through.

Worms have a single loop blood vessel through which blood is pumped by five rings of muscle which squeeze in turn and force the blood along.

They do not have eyes but do have some light sensitive cells at their head end which lets them know when they are out of the soil.

You can find woodlice in damp conditions under stones, behind bins etc. - the children may know where to find them! Catch woodlice using a pooter (see Teaching Note) or leave a margarine tub with some damp leaves in a place where the woodlice live and scoop it up after a few hours - hopefully with several woodlice in it!

Snails, spiders and worms can all be kept easily in the classroom for a few days using perspex tanks or aquaria or improvising with a lemonade bottle as follows:-

Cut a large lemonade bottle in half (at least 2 or 3 litre size) and put a small amount of moist soil in the bottom. Add a few twigs from a shrub or bush that the creature likes to eat and perhaps a small stone or two. Put the animals in - e.g. 2 or 3 snails, and replace the top half of the bottle and Sellotape in place. Remove the bottle lid and cover the opening with some gauze, Jaycloth or kitchen towel and secure with an elastic band.

Only keep the animals for a couple of days and replace the leaves every day and make sure that the habitat remains moist.

2. To start this discussion you could ask the children to name as many animals as they can. Write them on the board as the children suggest them and make sure there is a mixture of vertebrates - animals with backbones (cats, dogs, giraffes, fish, people etc.) and invertebrates - animals without backbones (slugs, jellyfish, ants, wasps, butterflies, crabs, anemones etc.). Go through the list and underline all the vertebrates in blue and the invertebrates in red. Discuss with the children why you have divided them this way. Can they work out what the two groups are? (Worksheet B16a (G) could be used also.)

Once you have clarified that you are going to look at invertebrates, consider the ones on the board, rub out the vertebrates, add some more invertebrates and look at the selection. Can the children pick out any features which a) they all have in common and

b) which some of them share?

3. Worksheets B16b (G) and B16c (G) give pictures of 24 invertebrates. These sheets can be photocopied onto card then cut up to provide cards for sorting or used intact for the children to use books to identify the creatures.

A key to their identity is provided below.

Worksheet W4.16a Worksheet W4.16b
Oak Moth
Garden Spider
5. Worksheet B16d (G) can be used to help the children group the animals on the board.

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