Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Testing Termites to Discover

Wendi Henderson
Bay District Schools


Students utilize open inquiry and the scientific method to discover how termites respond to their environment.


The student extends and refines use of systematic, scientific processes to develop and test hypotheses.


NOTE: Determine the amount of materials by the number of students per group and by the experiment chosen by each group to explore. Make sure you have at least 3 termites per group.
-Termites in container (See Preparations)
-Chart paper, overhead, or board
-Testing Termites Checklist, one per group (See Associated File)
-Testing Termites individual assessment, one per student (See Associated File)
-Various lab materials (Some suggestions: petri dishes, forceps, microscopes, hand lenses, triple beam balances, light source)


1. Obtain or prepare a list, including description, of the steps of the scientific method to be posted in the classroom.
2. Prepare a transparancy of a sample Semantic Web.
3. If access to materials poses a problem, have students bring in supplies as needed. Also, it may help to make a visual list of materials available so students know what is available for use at school.
4. Termites can be ordered from a science supply company, found in nature (rotting wood/stumps), or an exterminator may have access to them. The termites can be kept in a container (with rotting wood and moisture) for about a week. You may also choose to do this inquiry lesson with a different organism (e.g., antlions, ants, pillbugs).
5. Copy one Testing Termites Checklist for each group. (See Associated File)
6. Copy one Testing Termites assessment for each student. (See Associated File)
7. When the experiment is complete, dispose of termites carefully.


1. Review the steps of the scientific method and why these steps are useful before beginning this lesson. A posted list and description of the steps for students to refer to may help.

2. Review how to do a Semantic Web if not familiar with it. Display a transparency of a sample Semantic Web chart. (See Weblinks)

1. Introduce the lab activity by explaining to students they will have visitors who will not harm them, but can destroy a building. Intrigue students further by telling them that the visitors require a certain microorganism inside them in order to digest food – without this they would die.

2. Students will naturally want to guess who the visitors are. Listen to the possibilities, and then ask them if they are ready to meet their guests.

3. Introduce the visitors, allowing students to view for about 5 minutes and verify that the guests are termites.

4. Divide students into groups (2-4 students per group) assigning each group a number. Each group produces a Semantic Web by recording on notebook paper what students know about termites and how they respond to their environment in the Web format. (For information on Semantic Webbing refer to Weblinks)

5. Consolidate the group Semantic Web into a class chart on an overhead, board, or chart paper.

6. Have students write questions they still have about termites.

7. Involve the students in dividing the questions into 2 groups. Quantitative questions (those that can be measured) and qualitative questions (those that can’t be measured, but can be answered through research).

8. Have each group choose a quantitative question to solve by writing their group number beside the question on the overhead, board, or chart paper. Have each group create a hypothesis based on the question.

9. Share the Testing Termites Checklist expectations (See Associated File) with students.

10. Before students design their experiments to test their hypothesis, involve them in the process of setting parameters for experimenting. Items to consider may include materials available, amount of time, safety issues, etc.

11. In groups, have students design an experiment to answer the question chosen using the scientific method. Require students to write the experiment on paper. The teacher rotates from group to group encouraging students to write specific procedures for the experiment; commenting and posing questions to groups when needed.

12. Students select another group and read their experiment. They write suggestions for improvement and notes of clarification. After improvements are made, groups provide the teacher with a copy of the experiment.

13. Review the experiment, then have students gather materials needed to complete the experiment.

14. Circulate around the room encouraging and guiding groups of students as they perform the experiment following their procedures and recording any questions they formulate as they experiment.

15. Provide each group with markers and chart paper/poster board to be used to explain the question and hypothesis formulated, the procedures of the experiment, the results, questions they formulated in the process, changes they would make to refine the experimental process, and additions they suggest to extend the experiment.

16. Have students return the termites to the original container.

17. Using their posters, groups of students report out. (Refer to the Testing Termites Checklist in the Associated File.)

18. Instruct students to discuss the hypothesis and whether or not the data supported it. Then, in groups, allow time for students to discuss what was learned and add or correct information on their group Semantic Web.

19. Consolidate the group Semantic Webs into the class Semantic Web, discussing what was learned and how this could be extended.

20. Students complete assessment as listed below and the teacher uses the Testing Termites Checklist to assess the students.


1. Students produce a completed group Semantic Web.
2. Students produce a copy of the designed experiment in which all steps of the scientific method are used to develop and test their hypothesis. This includes notes from peer evaluators showing ideas for improvement/refinement.
3. Students extend their experiment by “reporting out” using chart paper/poster board.
4. Students complete the individual assessment, Testing Termites. (See Associated File)


To extend this activity, have students design a WANTED poster for their termite(s). The poster shows a picture of the villain and describes 5 traits which place him on the MOST WANTED list.

Web Links

This site shares strategies to use with students when using a Semantic Web.
Semantic Webbing

Find valuable information on termites.
Wood Products Insect Research

Find helpful information for students.
Termite Trails

A lesson plan to use as a supplement.
Termite Tracking

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.