STEM Tuesday — Pests that Bug Us — In the Classroom



Leeches, bedbugs, and plagues! These books focus on some of the plants, pests, and parasites that share our home and, in some cases, our body. The possibilities are endless for bug-filled classroom discussions and activities!


Plagues and Pandemics (History Smashers) by Kate Messner

A mix of conversational text and graphic panels takes readers on a world-wide tour of the best-known plagues and pandemics from ancient times to our current era. Highlights include the black death, smallpox, cholera, polio, Ebola, SARS, and Covid 19. The final chapter explores how to prevent the next pandemic.



Classroom Activity

Assign each student (or a small group of students) a pandemic or plague-causing microbe to research. Ask them to investigate their microbe using library resources or the Internet. Using the information they have learned, have the students created a “Most Wanted” poster for their assigned microbe. Have them include photos and/or drawings, scientific name, common name, symptoms, how it spreads, how to stop it, and more.



Itch!: Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About What Makes You Scratch by Anita Sanchez

To understand why things itch, we need to understand how skin reacts to stings and bites. This book includes the usual buggy suspects as well as plants with spines, needles, and poisons. Readers will learn how to identify poison ivy, how fleas leap, and how bedbugs talk to each other and they will find non-toxic alternatives for treatment.


Classroom Activity

When you have an itch, there are a variety of suspects that could be to blame. Is it a mosquito bite or a brush with poison ivy or something else? Let’s find out! Assign each student an itch-causing suspect, from bugs to plants to poisons. Have students research their itchy suspects using the Internet and/or library. Using the information they learn, students should create a set of clues to the identify of the itchy suspect. Have students read the clues to the class and see if the class can identify the itch-causing culprit.


What’s Eating You? Parasites – The Inside Story by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton

You are a habitat to (potentially) more than 430 kinds of parasites! Text, accompanied by graphic panels, explores the lives of ticks, fleas, and other parasites that live on your body surface, the tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms that live inside you, and some of the defenses your body uses against them.

Classroom Activity

How much do you know about parasites? Have students use this book and other resources to learn about parasites. How do people become infected with parasites? Where can parasites live in the human body? What body parts can parasites infect? What are the signs and symptoms of parasites? How can you reduce the risk of getting parasites? Have students use what they have learned to create a public service announcement about staying safe from parasites.



Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and dog. Find her at, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on X @carlawrites.

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Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her.
Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020