- The Moine Moire Mhor National Nature Reserve, local schools pack (SNH)
- Craigellachie National Nature Reserve, education pack (SNH)
- Schools Out - Fieldwork Made Easy: A teacher's pack for 5-14 Environmental Studies produced by Highland Environmental Network School Group
- To increase pupil awareness of the natural world around them
- To develop samplings and recording skills
- To introduce habitats
You will need
- sweep nets
- white sheet
- magnifying glasses
- clear plastic pots with lids
- minibeast keys (see downloads and additional information below)
- bird identification guide
Did you know?
There are more beetles in the world than any other type of creature.
Before the activity
Gather together all the equipment you will need. See the activity DIY Equipment in this section.
Do the Spot the Difference activity in the Biodiversity section
Become familiar with the techniques below:
Sweep net: This is a good way to catch small animals and insects. Sweep the net through long grass or around bushes or plants (only knock them gently). Empty the net, by turning it inside out, into a tall pail (white plastic pails used for water soluble paint such as lime wash are ideal). Handle creatures with care as flies and bugs are fragile. Small fragile creatures can be lifted into observation pots with a pooter
Pooter: A pooter allows someone to suck a bug into an observation pot without damaging the bug (or swallowing it!). One tube is placed over the bug and the person sucks on the other tube to pull the bug into the pot. A filter prevents the bug from being sucked into the person's mouth
White sheet: This is used to collect insects clinging to a bush or tree. Place the sheet under the tree, then give the branch a hard shake while taking care not to damage it. The creatures land on the sheet and are very easy to spot.
All creatures should be returned to where they were caught and it is important to emphasise that the creatures need to be treated with care and respect at all times.
The activity is best done in Spring or Summer on a sunny day.
Split the class into groups, for example
- Group 1. investigates birds
- Group 2. investigates minibeasts around trees (leaf litter, bark, leaves)
- Group 3 investigates minibeasts in long grass/ flower beds or other habitat found in the school grounds
Ask each group to design a recording sheet that includes a space to draw the creature and column headings of their choice, for example:
- distinguishing features
- approximate size
- habitat (where the creature was found)
- what it was doing
- interesting behaviour noted
- noise it made
- how it moved
- was it shy, bold, fast, slow etc.
- name (they can put in a guess and check later with the identification guides)
Ask them to put in the headings, date, time, temperature and weather across the top of their recording sheets
Let the pupils decide whether every member of the group will do all the tasks or whether they will split the group into
- catchers and spotters
Show the groups how to use their equipment. The pupils then go out and search the school grounds for their chosen animals.
Back in the classroom, use identification guides and the Internet to see if the groups can find the species of spider, insect, bird etc they have recorded on their sheets.
Have a class discussion on whether different animals were found in different habitats and that a 'habitat' often has different levels depending on the size of the creature involved. The habitat of an animal includes all the places it needs for its survival. Thus the habitat for a black bird might include the hedges and flowerbeds in and around the school grounds. However the habitat for a buzzard (sometimes seen on the grass of playing fields looking for worms) might include farm buildings, woods and fields around the school, ie. a buzzard would not survive if it could not use other places outside the school grounds, however a blackbird might. A centipede might live contentedly all its life in the leaf litter below some trees in the school ground, however a bee or butterfly might need to visit lots of gardens to find enough food.
If there is enough time, repeat the activity with the groups investigating different animals or different habitats.
Suggested Follow up
- Take the pupils to a site where they can apply their new found knowledge and skills and investigate a more diverse and different habitat than that of the school ground. Search in 'Where to go' to find a suitable site near you and find out if there is support available.
- Try making a pitfall trap - see "Schools Out" resource in the Downloads section
- See the activity Casting Tracks
- Take the pupils pond or river dipping, see Pond & River dipping in the Freshwater section of "Schools Out'' (see downloads)
- Get each pupil to focus in on one of the species they found and carry out further research on it
- Quick minibeast guide
- Watch Trust Minibeast guide from Watch Trust for Environmental Education
- All kinds of information about minibeasts on the buglife website
- Focus in on a Minibeast worksheet
- Schools Out
- The Field Studies Council have a series of laminated, fold-out guides.
- Your local ranger service may be able to help with field equipment and help
with sampling techniques
Science - main
1,2,3,4,5 - suitable for all