I wanted to share one of my favorite Earth Day projects.

The children design and create a clay insect that will air dry.   Once dry it is placed in an outdoor garden or plot of land.

The insects are observed for the remainder of the year.  I like to place a plastic insect among the clay insects.  Guess what?!   The weather disintegrates the clay insects.  So cool!  The kids love it!  One day the insects are GONE!  But why isn't the plastic insect?   

This ties in beautifully with the concept biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials – such an important topic for Earth Day.
You can also put your Earth Day insect in an outside planter to observe.


  • Red clay

Clay is not expensive. You can purchase it cheaply for about $10 for 10 pounds.

This enough for several projects. You could also share it with a team mate. To find a shop that sells clay – google ceramic stores. Or order it online here.


Begin by having your students brainstorm and design their insects.

  • I like free software like Tux Paint or PaintGo for design play.  They can use shapes and forms to design their concepts about how to construct the insect.


  •  I give each student a lump of clay.  The brown clay stains less than the red clay.

Letting children “make” one up will help those who have limited ability – they can claim their squishy lump is a special kind of insect! It saves face.

One student made a lady bug.


  •  Pencils are great for making marks and designs.


  • Have the children measure their insect using nonstandard measurement just after creating it.  I had the children use paperclips.

Looking a lot like a caterpillar.

Look at that snake's face!  Yikes!  A perfect thing for the garden!

A snail!


  • Let the clay insect air dry (do not fire them!!!).
  • Once dried, measure the insect again.  Record.
  • Let the children take them home to put in their gardens and yards.  OR you could put them in the school yard or garden.

Over time, these little insects will disintegrate back into the earth.  I absolutely LOVE this!  Since it is air dried, rain will slowly (or fast depending on where you put it!) take layers of the clay off.

It is a great way to teach students about how some things decompose and return to the soil and others do not.   Download your free journal here!

Science:  Decomposition
Technology:  Online Design Software
Engineering: Design Process
Art: Clay Insects
Math: Nonstandard Measurement of Insects throughout decomposition

EXTENSION:  You could make an insect out of foam clay and have the children put both in their yards to observe (or outside your classroom).