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Mighty Minibeasts

Mighty Minibeasts

Unit Summary

In this unit of study students will explore the world of minibeasts and along the way they will discover the important role that these creatures play in our lives. They will decide whether the world would or could survive without their chosen minibeast and will present their conclusions to the class. Students will investigate the characteristics and habitat of a minibeast of their choice and create a table-top minibeast zoo for the classroom. At the conclusion of the unit they will invite visitors into their classroom to visit their zoo.
In this unit, students use the Showing Evidence and Visual Ranking Tools to enhance their learning, and to help them compare perspectives and form conclusions.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    Are some little things in life as important as big things?
  • Unit Questions
    How do minibeasts affect our lives?
    Is a minibeast really a “mini” “beast”?
    How is the food chain important to our understanding of the role of minibeasts in the world?
  • Content Questions
    What is a minibeast?
    What are the characteristics of a minibeast?
    What is a food chain?
    What is the role of minibeasts in the ecosystem?
    What is the best environment for a minibeast?

Assessment Processes

View how assessment is used in this unit plan. These assessments help students and teachers set understandable goals, monitor student progress, provide feedback, assess thinking, performance and products and reflect on learning throughout the activities.

Prerequisite Skills

Students’ Prior Knowledge

  • An understanding of the use of multimedia and publishing software-saving work; inserting text, images and sounds; custom animation etc.
  • An understanding of blogging software, how to post a message and upload images.
  • Students may need some practice in presenting and ‘selling’ in preparation for the Minibeast Zoo.

Teachers’ Professional Learning

  • Teachers will need to familiarise themselves with the Visual Ranking and Showing Evidence Tools and will then set up a workspace for their classroom.
  • Have students work through simple activities to familiarize themselves with the tools.
  • Instructions and examples are available at http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/k12/teachers.html
  • Teachers may wish to also familiarise themselves with blogging software. Instructions are available through http://edublogs.org/

Teaching and Learning Strategies

  • Whole class discussions
  • Socratic questioning
  • Brainstorming
  • Collaborative grouping and learning-Think Pair Share
  • Research and investigation
  • Individual and group journaling

Teaching and Learning Activities

1. Preparing for the Unit

  • Gather a range of text books and children’s story books around minibeasts and food chains.
  • Locate a suitable container e.g. glass aquarium to create an environment for the “Guess the Minibeast” activity and “Classroom Minibeast Live Zoo”.
  • Prepare enough sets of laminated sorting cards for groups of three students in the class (see teacher support).
  • Prepare flipchart with images of animals for whole grade sorting.
  • Contact local authorities and/or universities to ask entomologists or environmental experts to help students answer the wondering questions. 
  • Create a class blog (weblog) for help visit Learner Blogs*.
  • Create a Virtual Learning Environment (open source software available) or online class page to allow students and teachers to access online resources and activities.
  • Gather magnifying glasses, electronic microscopes for viewing of live specimens.
  • Prepare minibeast wondering journal as a reflective, learning journal for students to use throughout the unit.
  • Create an accessible space in the room for the wondering wall and provide felt pens, insect cut-outs or thinking clouds for students to write and post their wonderings as they are working through activities.
  • Lay some old squares of carpet in various locations around the school yard to attract minibeasts underneath in preparation for minibeast collection and observation.

2. Introducing the Unitit
Throughout the unit read books and websites to students that illustrate the way minibeasts affect our lives. Include information that refers to the food chain, the characteristics of minibeasts, their habitats and their place in the ecosystem.

Are the little things in life as important as big things?  

  • Prepare a glass aquarium or similar container with some garden snails or other harmless minibeast. Cover so that students cannot see what is inside.
  • Inform students that there is something in the aquarium that is alive. “Would you put your hand in there without knowing what was in it?”.
  • Encourage children to ask questions and aim to excite and tantalise them with what could possibly be there. Will anyone volunteer to come up and put their hand inside without knowing what is inside? Discuss with the students why some might be reluctant and some are not. Put your hand in the container and describes what you feel. Again encourage students to predict what it might be. Finally, reveal the contents. Perhaps discuss the environment that has been set up to ensure that the minibeasts have survived.
  • Impress upon the students that it would be very foolish to touch or pick up any minibeast without care. Pose the question “Would it be good if we got rid of some of these slimy, creepy creatures? Would it really matter? Are the little things in life as important as big things?".

Creating and Exploring
What is the best environment for a minibeast?

  • Introduce the live minibeast habitat/zoo to the classroom. What sort of habitat will we need to create?
  • Students will participate in an exploration activity to try to identify the characteristics of a successful habitat. In small groups, students section out a square meter of ground and look for any types of minibeasts. Use a sheet divided into centimeter squares to indicate the location of each creature that they find. What did they discover? Describe the environment, take pictures of the environment and the minibeasts that they have found.
  • Create a portfolio of images of the minibeasts and habitat for use during the course of the unit.

3. Learning
What is a minibeast? Is a mini-beast really a mini beast?

  • Using an interactive whiteboard or an ordinary whiteboard and data projector pose the question. Is a mini-beast really a mini beast?
  • Define the words mini and beast. View multimedia teacher support (ppt). While revealing the images consider are we really seeing mini beasts?
  • The images are chosen because they aren’t pleasant to look at. The idea is to try to get a reaction from the students that will create discussion.

4. Wondering

  • Introduce the Wondering Wall.
    The wondering wall is where students and teacher can post wonderings about minibeasts. As we are learning and discovering we may be able to answer some of the questions along the way. Explain to students that this is a display that will stay here for the duration of the unit.
  • Model this process to the students. e.g. “I wonder why insects have six legs and we have two?” “I wonder why spiders need to look so scary?” “I wonder why some animals are really big, like an elephant and some are really small, like a mosquito?
  • Have cutout insect shapes that are large enough for students to write their wonderings on. Each child takes one cut-out and after sharing some thoughts with a partner, writes one thing that they are wondering about. Post on wondering wall.
  • Times should be allocated to regularly return to the “wonderings” to see if any of them have been solved. Continue to add to this wall over the course of the unit. It is important to impress that some questions may never be answered and that this is fine. The more important thing is to keep asking questions.

The wondering wall is an ideal place to also display the Curriculum Framing Questions so that students can keep referring to them as they are wondering and learning.

Minibeast Wondering Journal 
In addition to the wondering wall students keep a wondering journal to individually record things they have learnt and wondered. Encourage them to record thoughts that are memorable to them as they participate in the unit. These may be facts, ideas, images or conversations.

5. Defining and Sorting
What is a minibeast?

  • Students will need to decide on a definition of minibeasts.
  • Use an interactive whiteboard to display a range of images of creatures from the animal kingdom.
  • Have two students at a time come to the board and move and sort the images in silence according to their own criteria. Other students observe, discuss and decide why they think the images have been sorted in a certain way. E.g. big and small, pets and wild animals, insects and non insects, number of legs, wings, no wings.

What differences between the animals do you notice?

  • Provide students with a set of laminated images of creatures which includes animals large and small.
  • In small groups students sort the cards according to their own criteria. Have students share the way they have sorted the animals. E.g. wings/no wings, large/small, insect/non insect, mammal/non mammal.
  • Alternatively, provide two large hoops or string circles for large Venn Diagrams to each small group and have students sort according to set criteria. E.g. have students sort into minibeast and non minibeast. Explore differences and similarities between groups.
  • Refer back to Is a minibeast really a minibeast? What do we think we know about what a minibeast is now? What is a minibeast?
  • Display class definition on wondering wall.
  • Write personal entry in minibeast wondering journal.

6. Listing and Deciding
How do minibeasts affect our lives?

  • Use prepared multimedia presentation (ppt) or Bugs Guide*.
  • Briefly revisit the images to reignite the emotional response to the enlarged images. Pose question - Why do you think we have these creatures in the world? Can you see any evidence of minibeasts in the classroom? (Spider webs fly droppings, dead flies) What about outside? What can we see? What do they do? I wonder what would happen if they disappeared? Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have these annoying little creatures that bite and buzz and leave a mess?
  • Ask the question - How do minibeasts affect our lives?
  • In small groups or individually, list on the T chart good ways_bad ways (doc) the ways that students think minibeasts affect our lives.
  • Prepare a flipchart or page on the interactive whiteboard with an enlarged blank T chart, Good Ways, Bad Ways. Collate the small group responses on the flipchart. As a group evaluate whether there are more positive effects or negative effects.
  • Ask, why this is so? (the expectation here is that there would be more negative effects on our lives).
  • Place the collated T chart in an accessible place in the classroom for students to add to as they learn more.  

Wondering Wall - Continue daily visits to the wondering wall to maintain interest and challenge students to keep asking questions, thinking and searching for answers.

7. Understanding
Are the little things in life more important than the big things?
How does knowing about the food chain help us answer our Essential Question?
What is the role of minibeasts in the ecosystem?

  • To help visualize the way a food chain works, prepare blocks for the balancing the food chain (doc) activity. Using the blocks to represent the sun, plants, primary and secondary producers demonstrate how when one thing is removed from the pyramid the whole structure falls.
  • Alternatively students could play the food chain tag (doc) game. Students play the role of algae, insects and frogs. The numbers need to represent a balanced system where there are many more algae than insects and frogs. After a time stop the game to see how many algae, insects and frogs are left. If all the algae has disappeared then what happens to the insects and what happens to the frogs?
  • Continue to use other resources such as books, websites, DVD’s, learning objects to reinforce the understandings of the importance of the food chain. Using the interactive whiteboard illustrate a very simple food chain and have the children move each of the images around to demonstrate their understanding. Seek answers to the content question “What is a food chain?”.
  • To reinforce the food chain understandings introduce the teacher multimedia resource (ppt) to help explain the role of each member of a food chain. The presentation uses terms such as predator and prey, producer, decomposer, primary producer, secondary consumer, tertiary consumer and top consumer and encourages students to discuss the different roles of animals and how they impact on one another. The penultimate slide illustrates the complexity of a food web but also raises the question of the absence of minibeasts and the ultimate effect on the whole food web.
  • For more information see Food chains and Food Webs at Enchanted Learning*.

8. Categorizing
What are the characteristics of a minibeast?

  • If an interactive whiteboard is available, use an IWB flipchart of minibeasts. Students come up to board and physically move the images into groups. They can use their own method of sorting but they should explain it to the class.
  • In small groups give students a packet of laminated images of a variety of minibeasts and ask them to sort them according to their own criteria. Teacher introduces concepts such as exoskeleton, skeleton, vertebrates, invertebrates, arachnids and insects.
  • As the teacher is introducing each term students select the minibeasts that they have in front of them that belong to that group.
  • The IWB can be used to illustrate the different minibeasts that belong to each category. Create a permanent display of the minibeasts and their categories in the classroom using some of the images and terms that have been referred to.

Socratic Questioning

  • Remind students of the discussions they have had about the merit of some minibeasts. (See T-chart good ways_bad ways (doc) activity)
  • Imagine if you could invent a poison that would eradicate a certain minibeast forever. Would you eradicate it?
  • Propose that we eliminate all spiders in the world. Have students “Think, Pair, Share” some reasons why we should get rid of all spiders. If you don’t believe we should then explain why.
  • Using the Socratic questioning method to have a whole class discussion about the positive and negative reasons for eliminating spiders from the world.
  • This task will introduce students to the assessment task - Save My Minibeast.

9. Assessment Task

  • The teacher poses the scenario that a scientist has invented a poison that will kill all of a particular species of minibeast in the world. In groups of 2 or 3 students pretend that they are the Ministry for the Environment and they must decide if this is a good thing. Their task is to think of reasons for and against the eradication of a particular minibeast eg flies, mosquitoes, spiders, cockroaches, leeches, scorpions, termites.
  • T
  • In their groups, students formulate an argument supporting why they believe that their minibeast should survive or not.
  • They will present their argument in a short multimedia presentation (ppt).
  • Their presentation should include

1. basic information about their minibeast - image, facts, habitat, place in food chain, sustenance needs, predators
2. arguments for why it should not be eradicated
3. arguments for why it should be eradicated
4. their opinion

  • The teacher emphasizes to the students that this type of multimedia product is used to add to, not dominate, a presentation. Therefore they should use dot points, clear and relevant graphics and succinct information. Each group should practice using their presentation to make a powerful argument. See rubric (doc).

In order to assist students to prepare their argument and supporting presentation the teacher may employ a number of strategies and tools.
Preparing, Thinking and Questioning

  • The teacher may invite local experts into the class or establish email contact with scientists and entomologists so that students can begin the thinking that will be required to formulate arguments for and against the worth of their minibeast.
  • Additionally have students use the Showing Evidence Tool  to formulate their arguments for the Save My Minibeast task.
  • Students will need to learn how to use the tool. Practice by proposing a claim “I think that all flies should be eliminated” Ask students to think of 3 reasons why they think it would be a good idea to get rid of all flies in the world and three reasons why we shouldn’t. Impress upon them that they must give reasons for their claims and that they have to also think very carefully why they might hold the opposite view.
  • Use this scenario to practice using the tool.
  • Then have students use the tool to prepare their arguments and stance for their group presentation.

Project Name: Save the Flies
Should we save the fly?

Showing Evidence - Save the Flies

Sharing and Presenting

  • Have an afternoon where students share what they have discovered about their minibeast and their arguments for and against its preservation. Special guests could be invited to hear their presentations.
  • Students will be assessed on their ability to collectively persuade others of the worth of their minibeast through their group presentation.
  • The audience will be encouraged to ask questions of the presenters and their responses could also be part of the assessment.

Once all group presentations have been made, have students use the Visual Ranking Tool to rank the minibeasts in order of importance. Student should form conclusions based on what other students have presented, a judgment of the facts and how powerful their persuasion has been. Have groups then compare their ranking and justifications with another group.

How do minibeasts affect our lives?

  • The Visual Ranking tool can also be used to have students think about the effect that minibeasts have on people’s lives and occupations.
  • In groups of 3 or 4 students take on an occupation. Use the Visual Ranking tool to consider the affect of minibeasts on the work of that person. The challenge for the students this time will not be to rank the minibeasts in order of importance but in order of effect. For example a market gardener may rank worms and snails quite highly but for very different reasons. Snails - because they force him to work harder to protect his lettuces and worms - because they add nutrient to the soil. The Visual Ranking tool therefore compels students to explain and justify why they have ranked things in certain ways.

Project Name: Manage My Minibeast
Which minibeasts will affect my occupation?

Visual ranking manage my minibeast

10. Creating and Presenting

  • The culminating event for the unit will be a day where parents and friends will be invited to visit the Minibeast Zoo. The title for this special day could be “Just because it’s little, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth preserving!” 
  • In preparation for the day, students will create their own minibeast display/diorama that shows the habitat of the minibeast they have chosen. It will be based on research they have done over the previous weeks and must illustrate accurately the characteristics of their chosen minibeast and the optimal habitat.
  • Students will also prepare a brochure to print out and accompany their display and give to visitors. The brochure will be designed to “sell” their minibeast and will provide arguments for why it should be preserved, and why it is a valuable member of the ecosystem.to print out and accompany their display and give to visitors. The brochure will be designed to “sell” their minibeast and will provide arguments for why it should be preserved, and why it is a valuable member of the ecosystem.
  • Brochures could feature:
    • Snappy heading (Crazy Cockroaches, Flittering Flies, Beautiful Bees)
    • My Best Environment-includes the environment that minibeast needs to survive
    • Why we should look after them
    • Interesting Facts

  • It may be valuable for students to practice ‘selling’ their minibeast with other students before the visiting afternoon.
  • On the day, students will locate themselves near their diorama and their brochures, talk with visitors and show and tell them about their minibeast.  Visitors will be asked to vote for
    • the scariest
    • the prettiest
    • the ugliest
    • the most important
    • etc

  • Votes will be cast by pasting an image of that minibeast on a display board.
  • Incidental activities for the day could include:
    • making minibeast food eg butterfly cakes, ant chocolate balls, etc
    • writing and creating invitations for the visit
    • writing thank you notes
    • drawing maps to show how to get to the classroom
    • taking photographs of the visit
    • writing an article for the newspaper/newsletter
    • taking video of activities on the day

To complete the unit the teacher may have students reflect on the activities of the day and the unit using photos and recording. Students could write an article for the school newsletter or local newspaper. The teacher may also have students write a reflective piece for their MiniBeast Wondering Journal, classblog or for display.

The teacher will also bring students back to the Essential Question through a final time of pondering/wondering.

Have we answered our Essential Question?
Are some little things in life more important than big things?

Accommodation for Diverse Needs

Students with special needs

  • Mixed ability partnerships/groups.
  • Tips for using multimedia, peer mentoring, negotiated timelines, negotiated modifications of tasks.

English as a second language (ESL) students

  • ESL teacher involved within the class – providing extra assistance for these students.

Gifted students

  • Students are involved in open-ended activities, debating, developing collective understandings, etc.


Anne Baird, Deirdre McKenzie and Tanya Chalmers participated in the Intel® Teach Program which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

© State of Victoria 2006
Anne Baird, Deirdre McKenzie and Tanya Chalmers attended an Intel Teach to the Future Essentials Course and provided the idea for this portfolio. Copyright is owned by the Crown in right of the State of Victoria. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source and no commercial usage or sale. Reproduction for the purposes other than those indicated above requires the written permission of the Department of Education and Training. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and copyright should be addressed to the Liability Management Manager, Department of Education and Training, 2 Treasury Place, Melbourne, VIC, 3002
The State of Victoria accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any part of this material and bears no responsibility for any modifications made.

* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Mighty Minibeasts

At a Glance

Year: Levels 2, 3, 4 (Level 3, Victorian Essential Learning Standards)

Subject: Science, English, Information and Communications Technology, Thinking Processes

Time Needed: 10 – 12 weeks x 100 minutes per week