Phyla: Arthropoda


Looking for an engaging and educational lesson plan on arthropods? Look no further than Phyla: Arthropoda from Learn Bright! This comprehensive lesson plan covers everything your students need to know about these fascinating creatures, from their defining characteristics to how they’re classified.

In this lesson, students will investigate arthropoda. This is an advanced lesson, so teachers may want to consider covering the content pages in more than one class period. Using their new knowledge, students will construct their own arthropod and explain why specific characteristics are essential to their new creature. Students will also explore biomimicry and create their own headline from an arthropod’s perspective.

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What our Phyla: Arthropoda lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview—Phyla: Arthropoda explores the defining traits that the animals in this group share. Students will discover how scientists classify animals in groups, specifically phyla. They will also learn to differentiate between arthropods and animals in other groups. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.

Options for Lesson

The “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page offers a number of suggestions for additional ideas or activities that you could incorporate into the lesson. One idea is to have students work in pairs or groups to design an arthropod that solves a problem for society. For example, they could create a special arthropod that eats oil from spills in the ocean. Or they could make one that can withstand the high wind speeds of tornadoes and somehow stop the tornado from spinning so fast. Another suggestion is to have students think of superheroes with appendages or armor similar to arthropods once the lesson is over.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page provides a little more information or guidance on what to expect from the lesson. You can use the blank lines to record any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


Introduction to Phyla: Arthropoda

The Phyla: Arthropoda lesson plan contains four pages of content. To start off, it explains the etymology of this phylum. The prefix arthro– means joint, and the suffix –pod means foot. Basically, the terms stands for jointed foot. But what would such creatures look like? Examples of animals in the arthropoda phylum include ants, spiders, flies, and millions of others.

Most arthropods range from incredibly small that they are barely visible to up to a foot long. However, while most are generally small, the arthropods are the most extensive and diverse group of animals. Chances are pretty high that we could easily find one, even if we stayed indoors all day long.

These organisms have a hard outside covering called an exoskeleton. The three largest groups of arthropods are insects, arachnids (including spiders and mites), and crustaceans. Every habitat on Earth contains some type of arthropod. Some arthropods live in the water (crustaceans) and some on land (insects and arachnids). They can live in frigid climates, mountainsides, tropical forests, and hot deserts. The largest arthropods live in water and can weigh up to 40 pounds!

Types of Arthropods

Students will discover that there are many different types of arthropods. These little creatures will fall into one of four subphyla: chelicerata, myriapoda, hexapoda, and crustacea. In the chelicerata group, we find spiders, mites, scorpions, and similar bugs. The critters in this category have fangs or pincers to manipulate their food. While spiders have eight legs, this is not a characteristic all arthropods in this group share.

Next, we have the myriapoda group. These ones live on land and have anywhere from 10 to 200 pairs of appendages! It’s not hard to guess which critters belong to this group: centipedes and millipedes. The third group is the hexapoda category. Insects in general fall into this classification because they dominate the land and have three pairs of walking appendages.

The final category or subphyla of arthropods is crustacea. Not surprisingly, this group includes lobsters, crabs, barnacles, shrimp, and crayfish. As insects dominate the land, these creatures dominate the ocean. A common characteristic they share is that of mandibles, which function to grasp, bite, and chew food.

Common Characteristics

Regardless of the subphyla an arthropod belongs to, it will share certain common characteristics with all (or almost all) the others. One main trait is that most arthropods have segmented bodies that include the head, thorax, and abdomen. The sections have pairs of jointed legs that range from just 2 in most arthropods to 200 in some millipedes! They can walk up walls and other upright surfaces. Some arthropods use claws at the end of their legs to grip onto bumps on the surface. Others, like spiders, use special gripping hairs on the end of their legs.

Another trait is that arthropods have appendages on at last one segment. They can use this appendage for feeding, sensory reception, defense, and locomotion. Antennas and mouthparts are examples of modified appendages. In addition, arthropods have a nervous system with a brain and nerve cords. They also have an open circulatory system and a digestive system from which they can convert numerous sources of food to energy!

And they have exoskeletons. Their hard exoskeleton provides physical protection and helps them not dry out. It is made of chitin, a hard material that cannot bend. Because of this, many arthropods are jointed so they can move around. As an arthropod grows, it needs to shed its outer covering in molting.

Aquatic, Invertebrate, and Terrestrial

Aquatic arthropods live in the water and use gills to exchange gases. The gills can absorb more oxygen because they have a large surface area that makes contact with the water. Some arthropods have modified gills for breathing air, like the coconut crab. In contrast, others have oxygen-absorbing skin, like the soldier crab.

Arthropods are invertebrates, so they don’t have a backbone. They have a brain and a long nerve cord with sense structures that make them aware of their surroundings. Most arthropods have eyes, but some only have simple eyes that can only detect light changes but cannot see individual objects. Other sense structures include tiny hairs, cones, pits, or slits found on the exoskeleton and often on antennae, mouthparts, joints, and leg tips.

Terrestrial arthropods live on the land and have internal surfaces that help them exchange gases. They have a tracheal system where pores in the exoskeleton fill air sacs that lead into the body. Pores cover a large portion of their external body surface. Land crabs will often have two different gas exchange structures: one for breathing underwater and another for living on land.

Diet and Reproduction

Just like humans, arthropods eat many different types of foods. Some eat plants, others eat animals, and some eat both. Usually, they have some form of appendage that helps them get food into their mouth. And some also have another appendage to deliver venom to their prey. For example, scorpions use a stinger at the tip of their tail while spiders have an extra pair of fangs near the mouth.

These interesting critters either lay eggs or give birth to live young. If an arthropod lays eggs, sometimes the hatchlings do not look like the adult. For example, the offspring could have fewer segments or not have wings when they are first born. Then the young arthropods grow these features as they get older. Some insects will hatch as larvae and develop into their adult form through metamorphosis. This happens with butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, and beetles.

In addition, some arthropods can cause a lot of damage by eating crops, chewing through wooden buildings, or carrying diseases. But most are actually beneficial to humans because they play a significant role in pollination. They also inspire scientists and engineers to examine how arthropods solve problems. As a result, many inventions have come from looking at nature around us!


The Phyla: Arthropoda lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


The activity requires students to get their creative juices flowing and create an arthropod of their own. They will use various craft supplies in the classroom to complete the assignment. The arthropods can have custom traits like wings or interesting body shapes and so on. Once students finish their creature, they will write a paragraph that describes why they chose each characteristic. They will also answer how their animal differs from others.


For the practice worksheet, students will review a critical thinking question about regarding the concept of biomimicry. The worksheet lists four additional prompts for students to respond to after researching inventions inspired by arthropods online.


Students will find a current event that impacts humans and arthropods. They must develop a news article from the perspective of the arthropod. Ideas include honeybee loss, mosquito-borne illnesses, or engineering ideas based on insects. There is a box on the bottom of the worksheet to write out notes as they conduct their research. When they finish drafting their ideas, they will fill in the template on the second worksheet page and print or draw a picture to replace the one already there.

Worksheet Answer Keys

If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.