Make A Plaster Beetle Necklace
In this science activity, kids will have fun painting a plaster beetle and turning it into a necklace!
Beetles are different from other insects because they have a pair of tough fore-wings called “elytra” and a second set of more delicate flight wings. The fore-wings protect the beetle’s body and the flight wings. Beetles can crawl around rocks, sticks, and leaves and not get hurt because their elytra are tough. When they are ready to fly, they open their elytra and unfold their flight wings.
Scientists who study insects like beetles are called entomologists. People have been fascinated by beetles for thousands of years; in fact, the ancient Egyptians often created artwork and jewelry to look like the scarab beetle.
Today, scientists have identified more than 300,000 different kinds of beetles, but there are likely thousands more still yet to be discovered. Beetles live everywhere on Earth except in the ocean and on Antarctica. Beetles are the most diverse species on the Earth, varying widely in size, color and shape. The smallest beetles can fit through the eye of a needle; the largest are the size of your fist! This is an excellent example of biodiversity.
Many beetles are helpful to humans by eating other harmful insects. For example, ladybugs (also called “lady beetles”) eat lots of tiny insects called aphids that can be harmful to plants. But other beetles, such as the Japanese beetle, are harmful because their eating patterns can kill trees and crops.
- Plastic spoons - 1 per student
- Plaster of Paris - 1/2 cup per class
- Water - 1/4 cup per class
- Disposable cup - 1 per class
- Plastic knife - several per class
- Pictures of different beetles
- Washable tempera paint or similar
- String, yarn or similar - 2 feet per student
The materials listed here will yield about 14 beetles.
Mix ½ cup plaster of Paris and ¼ cup of water in a large disposable cup. Scoop out a blob of plaster onto a plastic spoon, then use the straight edge (not the cutting edge) of a disposable knife to flatten out the blob and remove any excess so the plaster takes the shape of the bowl of the spoon, but is flat on the surface.
Press a piece of bent wire, pipecleaner or similar into the top of the plaster near the top of the spoon and twist so that the loop is ready to hang on a string in a way that will allow the pendant to lay flat on the child's chest.
Set aside this aside to dry -- about 30 minutes. Once dry, pop the plaster shape out of the spoon. (If you are working with a large group of kids, or with younger kids, you might consider making these ahead of time.)
Decorate the plaster shapes with tempera paint and sharpies. Be sure to check out some cool pictures of beetles for inspiration.
Set aside to dry, then hang on a string and proudly wear your beetle jewelry!