Litter Critters

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In this outdoor activity, learners use a "litter-critter" wheel to help them identify different animals they find living in a natural litter habitat. Learners also become familiar with body parts of litter habitat animals, and use that knowledge to identify animals they find. This activity addresses the concept of decomposition as well, and can be expanded to address specific aspects of biodiversity across various litter habitats, including those affected by human litter. Depending on the age of the learners, they can make the litter-critter wheels themselves (plan on an additional 30-45 minutes for learners to construct their wheels before starting the main activity).

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 2 hours

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • half-gallon milk cartons for observation trays and litter shakers
  • plastic cups
  • ziplock bags (sandwich size)
  • bug boxes or magnifying lenses
  • index cards
  • sacks or bike bags
  • pencils
  • crayons
  • Record Cards (from PDF)
  • Litter-Critter Body-Parts sheets (from PDF)
  • scissors, single-edge razor blade, or mat knife
  • rubber cement or glue
  • transparent tape
  • 9 cm x 9.5 cm pieces of hardware cloth screening (0.5 inch mesh)
  • Litter-Critter Wheel equipment card (from PDF)
  • Litter-Critter Wheel Title sheet (from PDF)
  • master of Card 1: Head and Thorax Wheels (from PDF)
  • master of Card 2: Abdomen and Wing wheels (from PDF)
  • Litter-Critters Body-Parts Sheets
  • Litter Shaker Equipment Card (from PDF)
  • data board or large drawing pad
  • marking pen
  • stapler
  • roll of reinforced filament tape or duct tape
  • 8.5" x 11" manila file folder or card stock
  • set of body-part-wheel transparencies (head, thorax, abdomen, wings)
  • round-head paper fasteners


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 1982