K-12 OUTREACH (click here for a summary brochure)
We use the exuberance of insect biology in general and that of our study organisms in particular to provide science education opportunities for students and teachers from Kindergarten through high school. We have developed a series of teaching modules that match both core and process objectives of the Indiana Science Teaching (IST) Standards. In recent years we have expanded this repertoire to also include teaching units focused on evolution, and the integration of development with evolution. Many of these modules can be adapted to a wide range of grade levels.

All modules involve hands on teaching exercises through which students practice the scientific method, develop critical thinking skills, and above all have fun exploring biology.

WonderlabIn this effort we collaborate closely with WonderLab, a local children’s museum for Science and Technology, where we present many of these teaching modules in yearly workshops for local and regional K-12 educators. Funding for these workshops is provided by private foundations as well as the National Science Foundation. Participation is free. If you would like to learn more contact Armin Moczek or Karen Innes.

Listed below are short descriptions of modules developed to date, where and how they match Indiana Science Teaching Standards, as well as links to pdf files with additional educational materials. If you are interested in learning more about specific modules and how to integrate them into your classroom (or have one of us come visit) please contact Armin Moczek.

TermiteIntroducing the scientific method (all grades)
This is our most popular teaching unit. It can stand alone or be combined with additional modules below, because it also demonstrates important biological phenomena (such as communication and cooperation). We typically have students work in small groups, and without much intro ask them to draw a circle using a ball pen. We then provide each group with a termite which, once released into the circle will find the line and then follow it around faithfully. This behavior is highly reliable, and at the same time it is intriguing. Students immediately start playing with the design, trying different shapes, pens etc. It does not take much to channel this into an exercise where we focus on two questions (How is the termite following the line and why?) , then generate hypotheses, experiments with predictions, and actually test them in class. The whole thing can be done in as little as 15-20 minutes. It has now become the standard module by which the scientific method is introduced in science classes at Bloomington High Schools. Appropriate for all grade levels. We can make termites available to your class anytime during the school year if you give us a few days notice. PDF

Hidden universes: What does it mean to be an insect? (K-1)
This modules explores the diversity of insects, how insects are related to other groups of arthropods (e.g. spiders, millipedes) and the major groups within the insects. We sort and identify real specimen (dead and alive) and explore concepts such as adaptation and convergent evolution. This module is especially appropriate to reinforce IST Standards for kindergarten and 1st grade. We also routinely teach this module in various shapes and forms to groups that visit our lab, such as the Daisy Scouts Bloomington, or the Bloomington German School. PDF

Aliens among us: Insect life cycles and development (K-2)
We explore the diversity of insect life cycles, from simple (say milkweed bugs) to complex (say monarch butterfly) to completely mind-blowing (say lacewing). We sort life stages (pictures as well as live specimen), explore the mystery of metamorphosis, and work our way through actual experiments scientists have done to learn how metamorphosis is regulated. This module is especially useful for 2nd grade, where IST Standards emphasize the teaching of life cycles. PDF

Cooperation and conflict: How insects interact with each other and their environment (K-12)
This module is highly flexible. It focuses on how insects interact with each other and their environment. Using more or less complex examples and concepts this module can be adjusted to a wide range of grade levels. We use line-following behavior of termites (see above) as a hands-on component in this module. PDF

Insect senses: How to hear with your legs and taste with your feet (grades 2-5)
This is a modification of the cooperation and conflict module, with a shift in focus onto insect senses. Again, we use the termite unit as a hands-on component. PDF

How to avoid to be eaten – smart predators and toxic prey (grades 4-5)
Froot LoopsThis module focuses on predation and what organisms do to defend themselves, such as escape behaviors, camouflage, chemical defense, and mimicry. We then examine the effectiveness of such behaviors in an experiment: students are the predators and 8 species of differently colored fruit loops are the prey. One species is chemically defended (= treated with tabasco). Can the predators learn to avoid it? Are similar yet tasty colors protected through mimicry? We design the experiment, generate the predictions, and then test them in class. This is a lot of fun! This module is espacially appropriate for 4th grade where evolutionary adaptation to diverse conditions is central to the life science learning objectives. PDF

On skulls and teeth – Adaptation and specialization to diverse life styles (grade 4 and above)
This is another highly popular module, focusing on adaptation to disparate environments and the relation between form and function. It also has a lot of mechanics and engineering content. It is most appropriate for grade levels 4, 5 and higher. We usually begin by first generating some discussion on what animals eat and what types of teeth and skulls different diets might require. Then, with students working in small groups, we provide each group with 3 basic skulls (all mammals) that we place on their table. We then ask them to spend a few minutes with the skulls and then present their observations to the class.  In the process we introduce important terminology (e.g. canine, incisor etc.) and highlight more subtle skull features (e.g. eye placement to distinguish terrestrial from aquatic mammals; or the relative size of jaw muscles and tooth shape to infer whether the animal chewed, grabbed, cut, or crushed). Once comfortable, each group gets two more skulls, which pose some additional challenges. For instance, one group will get a black bear and a panda. Both are bears and the similarities are obvious, but so are the differences: the black bear is a typical omnivore, the panda has become a specialized herbivore and that is obvious in what has happened to its skull and teeth. It is a bear, very much trying to be a cow. We then end by putting all skulls together and discuss degrees of relatedness among groups. We can provide all skulls necessary for this unit, most of which are real (i.e. not casts) and there is something very special (and kids respond to this immediately) to hold a real skull in one’s hand knowing that this was once very central to an animal’s life. PDF


Oh the places you’ll grow – plant adaptations to different growth conditions (grade 4 and above)
This module is similar to the one on skulls except it focuses on plants and plant adaptations to diverse climatic conditions. We arrive with a small truck load of plants in your classroom and begin by talking about what it is all plants need to grow and thrive. We then brainstorm about what climates exist on our planet and how they might challenge plants in different ways. Lastly, we hypothesize about possible strategies that a plant could use to deal with such challenges. Then we turn to real plants and interpret their varied appearance in the light of what we have learned about climate adaptations. This module can also be taught very effectively at the Indiana University greenhouse (if you would like to organize a visit for you class let us know!). PDF

Oh the places you'll grow


Evolution I: mechanisms, causes, and consequences (grade 6 and above)
This module provides a basic overview of what evolution is, why it happens, and what some of the consequences are. Focusing on adaptation, it then presents a hands-on exercise with horn-dimorphic beetles in which students develop alternative hypotheses on the potential adaptive value of horns (and hornlessness) and then test them with data collected in real, published studies. PDF

Evolution II: co-evolution, co-adaptation, and why it takes all the running you can do just to stay in place (grade 6 and above)
This module builds on the previous one, and dives deeper into the consequences of adaptation. It especially focuses on co-evolution, and using insectivorous plants (which we make available to classrooms) provides a fantastic, hands-on opportunity to investigate some of the most remarkable ecological and evolutionary interactions between plants and insects. PDF

Modules such as the Skulls & Teeth module described above have proven extremely useful for students with physical and cognitive handicaps (see http://rockhillsclass.weebly.com for images of a class visit): skulls do not need to be seen; instead their weight, texture, shape, etc. can be felt. Skulls are complicated and challenging but hold still and can be examined over and over again. Lastly, by including casts of primate and human skulls even students with severe disabilities begin to form connections between the anatomy they feel or see, and the one they possess themselves. In March 2013 I received an Ostrom Foundation Grant to further develop this module for traditional and special needs classes, to generate a loanable collection for regional schools, and to adapt this module to a variety of special-needs class room settings.  In addition I have begun to develop two alternative modules, focused on (a) human skeletal anatomy  and (b) marine shells, both of which like the skulls tell complex developmental, ecological, and evolutionary stories that can be experienced in a variety of ways.


I co-direct the Jim Holland Summer Enrichment Program (SEP), which recruits approximately 70 minority high school students from across Indiana as well as neighboring states to the IU campus for a 7 day immersion into the life sciences each summer. More details on this program can be found here.

I also co-direct the Jim Holland Summer Science Research Program (SSRP), a new program that allows 20 former participants of the Jim Holland SEP to return the following year for a 1-week intense trainee-ship in selected research labs. The SSRP was originally funded by the National Science Foundation but is now fully supported by Indiana University. More details on this program can be found here.

Lastly, I recently secured funding in support of a third program, the Research Initiative in STEM Education (RISE). This program targets High School seniors at the transition to college, and will have its debut in the summer of 2016. Please return to this page for more information in the future.

If your would like to learn more about any of these programs please check the corresponding websites or contact Armin Moczek at armin@indiana.edu.


We provide educational resources in insect biology and evolutionary developmental biology to the greater community year around. We give public lectures, present at local school fairs, assist in extracurricular science education efforts, and generate educational materials such as insect- or skull collections for local and regional schools. Our laboratory is available for visits by classes or youth groups, and we are happy to come visit your group and provide hands-on introductions into the amazing world of horned beetle biology and beyond. Contact us at armin@indiana.edu to learn more!