Living Under Leaves

Children will explore insects’ habitats.


Lesson Objective

The children will discover and observe places where insects live.


What You'll Need

  • A safe, natural outdoor area for exploring that has leaves, rocks, and/or logs
  • Sticks or wooden skewers 8"–12" long – 1 per child
  • Flashlights – 1 per 2 children
  • Magnifying glasses – 1 per 2 children

What To Do

Note: A good reference for teachers is the book, The Best Book of Bugs, by Claire Llewellyn. Assign partners for children prior to going outside to share flashlights and magnifying glasses.

  1. Introduce children to the world of insects by asking questions about what children might know about insects (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  2. Tell the children they will be going outside to look for insects in their habitats.
  3. Take children outside, and begin looking for insects on the sidewalk or in the grass.
  4. The children may find a few insects; have them watch the insect to try to find out where the insect goes.
  5. Look for a place with some loose leaves or rocks. Demonstrate for the children how to gently lift up rocks, using the skewers (or sticks) to gently move leaves aside, and gently turn logs over.
  6. Ask them what they see underneath.
  7. Give children flashlights to help them see the insects. Discuss their findings.
  8. Distribute magnifying glasses for children to closely observe the insects. Discuss what insects need to live (see Did You Know?).
  9. When you are finished observing the insects, put their homes back together.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • What do you know about insects?
  • Describe places where you can find insects.
  • Tell me about any other places you found insects.
  • Describe what was different about the places you found insects.
  • Describe what the ground was like under the rocks, leaves, or logs.
  • Explain why you think insects might live here.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Compare an insect habitat to where you live. Ask children to explain what is similar and different.
  • Compare the colors of the insect with the colors in their habitat. Discuss camouflage and how some insects blend in with their surroundings because they are the same shape and/or color.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Can children describe where they found insects?
  • Can children describe what the ground is like where they found the insects?
  • Can children explain what insects need to survive?


Did You Know?

Insects have the following unique characteristics—a three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae. All insects have exoskeletons, which are hard shells on the outside of their bodies. The exoskeleton protects the insect from harm. Ants, bees, and moths are insects. Not all bugs are insects. For example, spiders are not insects because they have a two-part body and eight legs. 

Insects, like all creatures, need air, water, food, and shelter to survive. There are more than one million different kinds of insects. Insects are found all over the world in every type of habitat. The greatest number of insects lives in forests, grasslands, and deserts. Insects are also very numerous in ponds, lakes, streams, and wetlands. Many insects are difficult to see because they blend in with their environment. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • insect – a small animal with three body parts, two antennae, six legs, and a hard covering over its body.
  • log – a large, thick piece of a tree that has been cut down and is ready for sawing, burning, or building.
  • rock – a solid mass of minerals which forms much of the Earth’s outer layer.
  • antennae – one of a pair of long, thin body parts on the head of insects, crabs, and other animals. Antennae are used to feel and smell.
  • habitat – the natural environment of an animal or plant.
  • observe – to watch carefully.

Lesson Tips

  • Some children may not have much experience with insects; you may need to give them extra time to adjust to inspecting the insects.
  • Some insects move or crawl very fast; you may want to place them inside a box lid for observation.


  • Insects by Robin Bernard
  • On Beyond Bugs! All About Insects by Tish Rabe
  • I Like Bugs by Margaret Wise Brown
  • It’s a Good Thing There Are Insects by Allan Fowler

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS