Camel cricket
Bathroom moth midge
House centipede

What are arthropods?

What makes an insect… an insect?

Lesson Summary

Essential Question(s): What are arthropods and why are we looking for them? What makes an insect an insect?

Established Goals/Objectives: At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Students determine what insects, arachnids, and myriapods are.
  • Students learn about taxonomic groupings.

Materials: Research links, collection template, recycled materials for creating their own arthropod, poster paper.

21st Century Skills – Communication, Information Literacy, Critical Thinking

Teacher Background Information: The phylum Arthropoda are the animals with jointed legs, segmented bodies, and a tough or hard outer covering that also serves as their skeleton (exoskeleton). Insects have these characteristics, so they belong to Phylum Arthropoda, but so do millipedes, spiders, ticks, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish, which are not insects.

The class Insecta, or insects, are the Arthropoda that have three pairs of legs, a segmented body divided into three regions (head, thorax, and abdomen), one pair of antennae and, usually, wings. Other Arthropoda classes have more than three pairs of legs and only one or two body regions, and they never have wings. Other common classes of Arthropoda are Crustacea (such as sowbugs, crayfish, crabs), Diplopoda (millipedes), Chilopoda (centipedes), and Arachnida (such as spiders, ticks, mites, scorpions). From: University of Kentucky Department of Entomology


  • This is an activity that has students develop an understanding of the “what” and “why” concerning this overall project. Students could use photos and research links to compare/contrast arthropods, and how their unique exoskeleton adaptations not only help them survive, but also to help distinguish between different groups — insects, arachnids, crustaceans.
  • Activity could extend to students working in teams to “build their own arthropod” with materials from a makerspace — and then present on what it is, how its adaptations help it survive, and what type of arthropod it is.

Assessment: Students prepare a poster with Venn Diagram explaining similarities and differences between insects/arachnids or insects/arthropods.


Other ideas: Pest vs beneficial. Predators inside – Pests inside termites / flies / book lice / pollinators. Indoor plants.

Next Generation Science Standards

  • K-LS-1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive.
  • Math: MP.2, MP.4, K.CC, K.MD.A.2–Using data about their own collection or that provided online students may model with math, count legs, and compare objects with measurable attributes(legs) in common.

NC Standards

W2.2 Write informative/ explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
2.L.1.2 Compare life cycles of different animals such as, but not limited to, mealworms, ladybugs, crickets, guppies, or frogs.
5.L.2.2 Classify the organisms within an ecosystem according to the function they serve: producers, consumers, or decomposers (biotic factors).

This lesson was prepared by Gregory Eyman, K-5 STEM, Brentwood Magnet Elementary School of Engineering.

Never Home Alone: Lessons and Activities