National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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What's Bugging You?
3 - 5
Seven to ten 45-minute sessions
Students will learn the definition of a pest, examine how pests affect other living organisms and the environment, and identify how pests are managed in agricultural settings.
- Pest Scenarios. (1 copy)
- Scissors (1 pair)
- Role-play props (optional)
For the class:
- Flyers/brochures from your county Agricultural Commissioner's Office that describe potential pests of which your community should be aware.
- Insect and spider reference books
- Pest trap examples such as mouse traps, fly traps, cockroach traps, opossum traps, and traps obtained from the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office.
For each of six groups:
- Butcher paper or chart paper.
- Copies of Pest Management Reading Sheets-one set per group
For each student:
- Insect bait, such as fruit, flowers, or meat.
- Making an Insect Observation Chamber instructions
- Masking Tape
- School-sized milk carton
- Screen (7" x 7")
- String (20")
- Supplies needed for student designed insect traps (optional)
For the teacher:
- Overhead projector
- Overhead transparency of the poem Spider Mites
- Overhead transparency of the Poem for Two Voices student activity sheet
- Joyful Noise book by Paul Fleischman (optional)
- Thesaurus (optional)
For each partnership:
- Poem for Two Voices student activity sheet (2 copies)
For each student:
Copy of Spider Mites poem
For each team:
- Materials to make pests- pipe cleaners, felt, beads, toilet paper rolls, glue, markers, toothpicks, yarn, aluminum foil, construction paper, etc.
- Index cards
- Shoe boxes (optional)
For each student:
- What I Learned About Pests and Pest Management handout
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Activity 2- Pest Management Reading Sheets
- Activity 3- Spider Mites
- Activity 1- Pest Scenarios
- Activity 4- What I Learned About Pests and Pest Management
- Activity 3- Poem for Two Voices
- Activity 2- Making an Insect Observation Chamber
aphid: a small green insect that sucks the liquid out of plants with its proboscis (mouth).
biological control: the use of natural enemies and biotechnology (including predators, parasites, pathogens, competitors) to contain or control pests
bug: An insect with a sucking mouth part, belonging to the "True Bug Family"
control: to restrain or regulate
disease: any disturbance that interferes with a plants normal structure, function, or economic value
ecosystem: the network of living and non-living things in a particular community, which includes plants, animals, microbes, soil, and air
entomology: the branch of zoology that studies insects
eradicate: to rid of completely
fungicide: a chemical used to destroy fungi such as molds and mildew
fungus: a group of decomposers that lack chlorophyll; they reproduce with spores; examples include mold, mildew, and mushrooms
herbicide: a chemical that kills plants
host: an organism which provides nourishment or shelter for a parasite
integrated pest management (IPM): ecological and scientific approach to long-term pest suppression that utilizes multiple disciplines and a combination of controls, such as beneficial insects, cultural practices, mechanical devices, and chemical inputs
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Perform a focus activity with your students to determine what they already know about pests and what they want to learn about pests. Some possible activities include:
- A five-minute writing assignment answering the question, "What is a pest?"
- A class brainstorm answering the questions, "What do we already know about pests?" and "What do we want to learn about pests?"
- Reading the story or watching the video of The Tale of Peter Rabbit or The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter and then discussing the pests in the story- Peter Rabbit? Mr. MacGregor?
Activity 1: What a Pest!
- Place students into groups of four to six.
- Have each group brainstorm and select a possible pest role-play or assign a role-play from one of the scenarios included in the Essential Files.
- Have each group create a role-play of their scenario. Encourage little or no talking by the actors. The group should show the following in their role-play:
- The pest that is causing the problem.
- The damage or problem the pest causes.
- How others try to get rid of the pest.
- How the organism can be beneficial or harmless.
- Have the students practice their role-play for 3-5 minutes and then present their role-play to the class. They are not to tell the audience the name of the pest. At the end of each presentation, have the audience make guesses as to the name of the pest.
- After all of the presentations, develop a definition for the word "pest." Discuss other definitions as mentioned in the background information.
- Write the class definition for the word "pest" on sentence strips or tag board and post it on the wall in a prominent place where all students can refer to it.
- Describe a pest, without stating its name, and have the students guess what the pest is.
- Complete a chart similar to the one below.
Activity 2: Quit Pestering Us!
- Determine the number of students in your class. Place one apple for each of your students in a box or basket. Make sure the apples have a variety of appearances-bruised, discolored, unusually shaped, shiny, large, small, etc.
- Have each student choose an apple.
- Have the students explain why they chose the apples they did. Was it because of size? Appearance? Potential taste?
- Discuss how people influence what type of food the agricultural community produces. Emphasize that public opinion does impact agricultural production. What is important? Nutritional value? Food that is safe to eat? Appearance? Price?
- Have a class discussion concerning the need for people to control pests. Be sure to discuss the need for farmers to control pests as well as the need for homeowners to control pests. Some key discussion points may include:
- Why people find it necessary to control pests.
- What would happen if certain pests were not controlled by humans.
- How weather affects pest incidence or crop susceptibility (heat, frost, flooding, etc.).
- How changes, such as urbanization, in an ecosystem impact the need to control pests.
- What would happen if one pest were completely eliminated? Is it important to keep a minimal number of every pest?
- Divide the students into six groups. Distribute a different Pest Management Reading Sheet to each group. Have students follow the procedure below or create a lesson of your own.
- Individually, quietly read the assigned information sheet.
- Orally, re-read the information sheet as a group.
- In groups, determine at least five interesting facts you learned about the pest.
- Write down and/or illustrate the facts on butcher paper.
- Finally, have the students present what they learned to the class.
- Show students different traps that are used in agriculture to analyze what pests are in the orchards, fields, and homes. Do not forget to include a mouse trap in your collection. Discuss the functions of the traps. They are used to identify pests, determine pest populations, and/or reduce the number of a particular pest. (Many sample traps are available from your county's Agricultural Commissioner's Office.)
- Have the students design and construct an insect observation chamber they will hang or place in their yard and examine for insects. One possible insect observation chamber is described in the attached file, Making an Insect Observation Chamber. Some possible discussions prior to this lesson may include:
- Insect diet.
- Insect anatomy, including mouth parts and their functions.
- Pheromones and their function in mate attraction.
- Purposes for insect traps.
- Trap designs that prevent insects from leaving.
- Have the students examine the trap during morning and evening hours, if possible. Are all of the captured insects considered pests? Are there other things besides "bugs" that are considered pests?
- Have your students report back on the types of insects and spiders they caught. You should have insect identification books available. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders is one suggested reference.
- Discuss how the insects can be beneficial or bothersome. Call the discussion "Trap News!"
Activity 3: Pest Poetry
- Make an overhead transparency of the poem Spider Mites and another of the Poem for Two Voices activity sheet. Distribute copies of the poem to each student.
- Divide the students into two groups. Group A will read column A of the Spider Mites poem and Group B will read column B of the poem. Discuss how the poems are written and read. Read Spider Mites as a class.
- Note: Line 1 should be read, then line 2, and so on. If words appear in both columns of the same line, they should be read simultaneously.
- On the overhead projector, create a collaborative poem for two voices that is about a pest. It is important to elicit characteristics of the organism, such as colors, sounds, and actions. Divide the class into groups and read the poem together. Note: Repetition of a phrase makes the poem sound more exciting.
- Pair the students and have them write their own pest poem for two voices. A possible procedure is described below:
- Decide on the pest about which the poem will be written.
- Brainstorm a list of characteristics about the pest-special colors, sounds, habitats, movements, etc.
- Determine one or two words or phrases that will be repeated in the poem.
- Write the poem on the Poem for Two Voices student activity sheet, keeping in mind that words written on the same line should be identical words, which will be read at the same time.
- Read the poem as a team.
- Make necessary changes.
- Rewrite the revised poem neatly on a clean activity sheet.
- Have the students rehearse and perform their poems for classmates or duplicate the poems and have the entire class read each poem.
Activity 4: A New Pest is Discovered!
- Place students into groups of two, three, or four.
- Discuss with the students that all living things require air, food, water, and shelter to survival. Explain to the students that they are going to invent, design, and build a pest.
- Show the students the supplies that are available.
- Have the students do the following:
- Decide what the pest will do.
- Build an imaginary pest out of the supplies that are available, keeping in mind that the pest requires air, water, food, and shelter.
- Name the pest.
- Determine the quantities of the pest needed to cause significant damage.
- Decide how the pest is controlled.
- Have the students prepare cue cards for an oral presentation.
- Have the students present their pests to the class for discussion.
- As a culminating activity, have the students write about what they have learned about pest management. Use the attached, What I Learned About Pests and Pest Management worksheet.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Suggested Companion Resources
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Understand the concept of land stewardship and identify ways farmers care for land, plants, and animals (T2.3-5.e)
Education Content Standards
3-LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
3-LS4-3Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
3-LS4-4Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.