Most people can name their state flower and recognize their state flag, but they probably aren’t even aware that their state might have an insect emblem! In fact, 41 states have an official insect. In this lesson, students will learn about their state insect (if there is one) and hunt for it in the schoolyard. If you live in one of the nine states without an official state insect, consider starting a campaign to have one adopted.
To learn the significance and symbolism accorded insects, both in your home state and throughout human cultures.
- Internet access and library books for research
- craft materials
Find out if you have a state insect: BugInfo: State Insects
Laying the Groundwork
Ask students to discuss the definition of a symbol. What is the purpose of a symbol? Brainstorm a list of symbols that we see each day, such as traffic signs, product logos, and flags. What do these represent? What makes these symbols effective? That is, what about it suggests the idea, object, or group it represents? Why are symbols important to us? Often, they are a means of communication and identification. They evoke thoughts and feelings. A symbol can be defined as something that represents something else through resemblance, association, or relationship; e.g., a lion is a courageous animal, and is a symbol of courage.
1. Research your state's official symbols. Does your state have an official insect?
2. If so, ask students to research the insect individually or as a group and find answers to the following questions:
What is your state insect?
What is its scientific name?
What is its habitat?
What does it eat?
Describe its life cycle.
Why was it chosen as the state insect?
Using this information, create a brochure or poster to share with others.
3. If you don’t have a state insect, ask students develop some criteria for determining worthy candidates. (A few criteria that have guided other states: it’s native; it’s important to the state’s agriculture; it's common and easily recognized.) Next, they can research common insects and see if they fulfill the criteria. Once you’ve chosen a finalist, contact your state representative to find out how to make an official proposal to adopt a state insect. The Washington state insect, the green darner dragonfly, was selected in 1997 after a campaign led by a group of elementary students.
- Hunt for your state insect in your schoolyard to observe it in action.
- Make 3-D models of your insect at each stage of its life cycle, including as much detail as possible.
- Learn about insects as symbols throughout history and in different cultures. The following articles from BugBios: