Making learning meaningful and hands-on is very important to me. I find that children learn best and remember the lesson when they are engaged. This grade 2 science activity will always be a memorable one for me and the children.
Although I used this activity in a grade 2 science class, I have also used it in kindergarten and in older grades. Learning about animals and life cycles is always an interesting topic and one children tend to be naturally curious about.
The activity is very easy to prepare and there is so much learning that comes from it – for both the kids and myself. Although mealworms are not my favorite animal, they are a creative way to teach children about life cycles and metamorphosis.
In the past, I have done experiments with butterflies to show life cycles and metamorphosis, however, using mealworms were especially exciting because none of the children knew what our mealworm was going to turn into or if it was going to change at all.
To do the experiment you will need:
- Plastic Animal Homes (Bug Container)
- Magnifying Glasses
- Plain Oatmeal
- Worksheets (FREE worksheets based on this activity are available at the bottom of this post).
Mealworms can usually be purchased at a local pet store. They are typically sold as very inexpensive food for lizards and other pets.
For a class with 20 children, I bought enough so that each child had at least one mealworm and we divided the mealworms into 5 containers. (I ended up keeping a few mealworms for my kids to also do the experiment at home.)
I used a layer of plain oatmeal on the bottom of the container and then added a few pieces of apples and carrots.
When you purchase the mealworms from a pet store, it is best to ask the staff what the mealworms eat and the best ways to keep/store them.
The way that I set up our mealworm homes were based on my research and speaking with the staff at the store. Different pet stores sell different types of mealworms. Make sure you are taking care of the specific type of mealworm that you get.
*Always make sure to check for any allergies before taking the mealworms and food into a classroom or around people.*
Grade 2 Science Mealworm Setup
Since you are working with real, living creatures, the best way to start the science experiment is by discussing how to handle and care for the mealworms. When some children see bugs, they may not want to touch it – which is absolutely fine. Go with each child’s comfort level.
It is best to discuss that the mealworms are now our class pet. We do not kill the mealworms and must handle them gently. They cannot be dropped or squished.
Once we discussed the rules, we started by children observing their mealworm and making observations about their new pet. How does it move? What does its legs look like? What does it feel like?
Children held, weighed and used rulers to measure their mealworm and observed it with a magnifying glass. There was so much excitement in the classroom with this activity!
(Make sure children wash their hands thoroughly after handling the mealworms.)
I then told children that we were going to be looking after the mealworms for several weeks, and maybe by the end of our experiment, something special may happen.
We used the worksheets to document the changes that we observed in our mealworms. We drew diagrams to show what was happening over time.
Mealworms provide a great opportunity for children to have a class pet, but are very low maintenance. Children were responsible for feeding and keeping an eye on the mealworms each day.
Groups were excited to check on their mealworm every day when they entered the classroom. We also changed their food each day (or late Friday and early Monday over the weekend.)
Children took time at the beginning of each science class to observe their mealworms and take note of any changes. They liked seeing the bites out of the food they had left them and enjoyed watching them move around through the oatmeal.
I definitely learned along with the kids on this activity and enjoyed every minute of it!
I started to get a bit worried when the mealworms seemed to take longer to go into their pupa state then I expected, but sure enough, one by one they did. It can take several weeks.
As a pupa, children observed that their mealworm did not move around anymore. They also noticed that there seemed to be a coating or film over the mealworm. These were great observations and they knew that something was happening.
Do not hold the mealworms in this state because they are fragile, but we did observe them with magnifying glasses in the container.
After a few weeks, the beetles emerged!
Once I noticed the mealworms had changed, I was so excited for the children to discover what had become of their mealworm.
To be honest, some children were less than thrilled that their cute mealworm was now a beetle, but either way, they watched the transformation and will, hopefully, remember it forever! I know I will.
Using mealworms is a great way for children to understand that many animals, and insects undergo changes over their life. Each life cycle is a little bit different.
Children tend to know and love learning about butterflies and their metamorphosis, but showing children another animal that goes also goes through a metamorphosis shows them it in a different way.
Grade 2 Science Life Cycle Printable
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More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
If you are looking for more activities and ideas to do in the classroom, or at home with kids, below are some of my favourite and most popular learning activities.
From more hands-on science experiments with liquids and solids and social studies activities to escape rooms and printables, there are lots of things to keep kids busy and learning. Click image for activity description.