Feeding Frenzy

Orkin Learning Center
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In this activity, students experience the difficulty of trying to gather food with an ineffective model of an insect mouthpart, and then investigate how effective various insect mouth structures are for gathering different food sources. 

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 2
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 3
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include thorns, stems, roots, colored petals, heart, stomach, lung, brain, and skin.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to macroscopic structures within plant and animal systems.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students are provided several models for insect mouthparts (plain straw, sharpened straw, straw inserted through sponge, clothespin, scissors) and guided toward using them in a particular way for the appropriate food source (open container of water, container of water covered in plastic wrap, paper, raisins, marbles). If students were given the handout containing mouthpart illustrations, they could engage in constructing arguments of their own regarding the best structure for each function.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
To extend the use of science practices, teachers are encouraged to use the suggested modification for advanced learners. This suggests collecting data on the effectiveness of different mouthparts with each food type. During the follow-up class discussion, teachers could encourage students to engage in argument from evidence if they are asked to critique the scientific explanations proposed by peers by citing relevant evidence.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This activity allows students to experience using different structures to model gathering food with insect mouthparts, including those of the house fly, butterfly, mosquito, damselfly, and leaf cutter ant.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
While this resource explicitly explores the structure of animals' mouthparts and their functions, teachers are not directed to relate the activity to a Crosscutting Concept. The resource can build toward both Systems and System Models, and Structure and Function if specific attention is focused on the mouth as composed of substructures and the mouth as a substructure, as well as the mouth as an important component of an organism's body system.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource provides opportunities to develop and use specific elements of the disciplinary core idea to make sense of phenomena by investigating how different simulated insect mouth structures are adapted to different food sources. Teachers can easily incorporate the tips mentioned above to further develop elements of the practice and crosscutting concepts.

  • Instructional Supports: Prior to the lesson, students should be introduced to the concept of adaptation. One way to do this is by observing videos or photographs of animals and discussing the features and behaviors that help them survive. Many insect videos and photos can be found at www.arkive.org. Although this resource provides some background information for the teacher and a few suggestions for modifications, it provides limited guidance for teachers to support differentiated instruction. The teacher could create a chart to record student observations, providing a resource for students having difficulty completing the activity sheet.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Students are asked to discuss their experience, and some specific guiding questions are suggested, which could allow for some anecdotal observation by the teacher. An activity sheet is provided that could provide some summative assessment, or this sheet might also be used as a recording sheet during the activity. If students were instructed to collect data during the activity, a data table in a science notebook could provide some formative assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.