In this pair of lessons for K-2 and 3-5, students observe and draw pill bugs then design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how a pill bug uses its body parts.


  • Students will observe and record behavior of a live organism.
  • Students will learn about pill bug-inspired technologies.
  • Students will develop their own designs based on their observations of pill bugs' abilities.

These two lessons were written by Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry and appear in the column, “Teaching Through Trade Books,” published by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) in the journal Science & Children (Vol. 53, No. 8, April/May 2016).  Both lessons require finding or purchasing live pill bugs. (Depending upon the time of year, these are readily available right outside your door.)

Investigating Pill Bug Structures (K-2)

The K-2 lesson plan uses the book Pill Bugs by Monica Hughes. Students observe live pill bug behavior during a lab and associate the behaviors with pill bug sense receptors. They list behaviors and reasons for those behaviors on a chart. Referring to their drawings of the pill bug, the students then discuss what parts of a pill bug’s body might help it sense its surroundings. Finally, they come up with a bioinspired design based on what they observed.

There are links to a couple of robots that the pill bug’s ability to roll up to protect itself. The link to the Pill Bug Observation Sheet provided within the lesson no longer works but can be found here (you may be required to log into the NSTA website, which does not require a membership). This lesson is provided with connections to Next Generation Science Standards 1-LS1-1 and K-2-ETS-2 as well as Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts.

Investigating Pill Bug Behavior (3-5)

The lesson for grades 3-5 uses the book Next Time You See a Pill Bug by Emily Morgan. Students are guided through the process of designing and carrying out investigations to answer their own questions about pill bug behaviors.

While the Grade 3-5 lesson is not a lesson in as-is, the K-2 lesson’s design process could be added to this lesson so that students come up with some ideas for emulating the pill bug based on what they discover in their investigations.

This lesson is provided with connections to Next Generation Science Standard 4-LS1-2 and Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts. Adding a design activity to this lesson could help address additional Engineering standards.

“Teaching Through Trade Books: Roly-Poly Pill Bugs” can be downloaded for free by NSTA members, or for $1.29 by non-members.