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Topic: 4B Habitats

A robotic cockroach can act as a 'pied piper' to real cockroaches, persuading the real insects to hide in unusual places. European scientists wanted to see whether the robots would be accepted by the insects and whether they could influence their collective decision-making process. They are hoping this will lead to studies of human group behaviour.
In this activity children will predict the behaviour of small creatures and make suggestions about how influencing their behaviour may have a beneficial use.

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Try the Activity Learning Objective

Click to Download Roboroach activity
Roboroach activity

Click to Download Roboroach teacher notes
Roboroach teacher notes


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· the preferred habitat of small creatures such as cockroaches, woodlice

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

· how to make a prediction and to test it in a realistic way.

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

Curriculum Link


QCA Unit 4b Habitats

· to pose questions about organisms and the habitat in which they live and make predictions
· to decide what evidence to collect and to design a fair test
· to make reliable observations of organisms
· to indicate whether their prediction was valid and to explain findings in scientific terms

Scientific enquiry

· to think about what might happen
· making a prediction
· making observations
· gathering and interpreting data
· deciding whether the evidence supports the prediction and suggesting explanations in terms of their knowledge of science.
· communicating ideas
· speaking and listening - putting together a case for a choice and discussing it with a group
· persuasive writing - create a poster to support ideas

· Counting, partitioning and calculating - when carrying out surveys, calculate differences, e.g. between the numbers of different types of organisms found in different habitats.
· Calculating, measuring and understanding shape - use a grid of squares to plot habitats where organisms were found in a survey
· Securing number facts, relationships and calculating - sort animals according to own criteria. Select ways of recording their groupings. Where appropriate, use fractions to describe them, e.g. one quarter of the organisms are wood lice.

Running the Activity

· Display Page 1 of the activity through a data projector or on an OHT. Explain to the children that scientists have invented a robot cockroach that will lead cockroaches in any direction.
Discussion questions
- What do we know about cockroaches?
- Why might we want to have more control over them?
- Where do cockroaches usually like to go and why?

Leading the main activity

· Display Page 2 Page 1 of the activity through a data projector or on an OHT. Look at the key features of a cockroach.

· Display Page 3 through a data projector or on an OHT. Children to use whiteboards or paper. Explain to them that this is an experimental area designed to have four different areas representing different key features.

a) Warm & dark
b) Cold & dark
c) Warm & light
d) Cold & light

Children should predict by drawing crosses where they think the cockroaches will be after 1 minute. Children can show their prediction by drawing crosses on a sheet of paper or whiteboard and should be encouraged to explain the reasons for their predictions.

· The first part of Page 4 should be revealed to show results of investigation. Discuss differences from prediction. Why didn't all the cockroaches go to zone (a)?

· Now ask question - what do children think would happen if some food was placed in zone (d). Go through the same prediction and revelation sequence. Reveal Page 5.

· Now predict what will happen if roboroach decided to lead them to zone (d). Reveal Page 6.

· Finally reveal Page 7 as a humorous indicator that the robot cockroach could ultimately lead the cockroaches wherever it chose to go.

Optional practical investigation

The children can do a very similar activity with wood lice. Children can create a habitat with different areas, possibly damp, dark etc. They can repeat their predictions and record results.
They could then design an artificial wood louse and see if they will follow.
(Teachers need to consider health and safety issues and need to ensure that woodlice are treated with care and returned to their natural environment as soon as possible.)

Web Links

BBC News
The news story behind the activity

Getting rid of cockroaches for good

How Stuff Works
Getting rid of cockroaches

BBC Science Clips
Activities around light and shadows

The story of the robotic cockroach influencing cockroach behaviour

Information about cockroaches

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