The guardians of the crops

The plants that we grow and those that have grown naturally in the garden are not alone. All these plants are very well accompanied; lots of small animals live in or near them, on the surface or under the ground. These little animals, which are mostly invertebrates that we often call bugs, are there because they need them to live: mainly because they feed on it, because they hunt the previous ones or because it is their breeding place.

The fauna of our garden is the set of all the animals that live in it; They are all the animals that live associated with our crops. We can include a large part of them in two large groups: pests, which cause damage, and auxiliary fauna, which benefits us. The auxiliary fauna group is much more striking and important for the success of our school garden project, so we will focus on its observation and identification to develop this activity. However, even the animals that damage our crops can have other functions that do benefit us in the garden, such as serving as food for auxiliary fauna.


  • 6-12 years old.


  • 3 sessions.


  • Ecovalia Poster of Auxiliary Fauna I (click here) & II (click here).
  • Mobile camera.
  • Notebook.
  • Pencil.
  • 1 white card.
  • 1 marker.
  • PC and projector (or photocopies of the auxiliary fauna posters).
  • Wide jars with little height (or petri dishes).
  • Tweezers.
  • Magnifying glass.


  • Learn to observe in order to know the environment.
  • Get to know the animals that inhabit our garden.
  • Recognize species of auxiliary fauna and pests.
  • Understand that all living things have important functions.
  • Foster respect for all forms of life.
  • Investigate, collect information and analyze it.
  • Express the results of a job adequately.


This experience is developed for students in the Third Cycle of Primary Education (10 to 12 years old), but it can easily be developed in lower cycles by adapting the information provided. It is ideal to carry out in the spring months, when invertebrates are more active.

The students will come into contact with different animal species that inhabit the garden of the educational center and each student will take a photo or make a drawing of one of these specimens. Later, using these photos or drawings, they will try to identify themselves with the help of some posters or with specific searches on the Internet. After a research project at home, each student will talk about their animal to their classmates. All the identified species will be included in a poster of “The fauna of our garden”, where the specimens of auxiliary fauna and pests will be identified.

Session I

Today we will go out to observe and “capture” the animals that inhabit our garden, but first we must explain that there are a large number of invertebrate animals that live in our garden performing different tasks or functions. Some feed on our crops and when they gather in large numbers they are called pests; this is well known because the pests cause great losses in agriculture. What is not so well known is that there is a large army of invertebrate animals that help us in the garden: protecting our crops, helping more fruits to form (pollinators) and improving the cultivation soil. The main difference between pests and helpers is their diet and that those who help us in the garden are usually found alone or in very small groups.

We went out to the orchard with the students grouped into 4 groups and each one will be in charge of searching ¼ of the orchard’s surface. The search will be carried out in silence, without haste and with patience, covering the entire search area, first observing without acting, and if necessary searching under the leaves, carefully under stones/grass/leaf/wood or digging a little on the ground. An attempt will be made to find the greatest possible number of inhabitants of the orchard and then internally assign each student in the group a different one. Each student will be responsible for “capturing” their animal and will write down where it was observed.

The proper procedure to “capture” our animal without disturbing it will be taking a photo of it. If it is not possible to take a clear photo, we must make a drawing after observing it with a magnifying glass. If it were necessary to capture a specimen in a jar for better observation, the correct way would be to place the jar lying down with its mouth close to the animal, to later guide it with tweezers or a stick so that it enters by itself, after which we would close the jar ( don’t forget to release it as soon as we’re done.)

Although it is not essential for the proper development of this activity, if there is time for it, it would be interesting to photograph or draw animals other than those assigned to the students to identify them together in the next session and include them in the list of “The fauna of our garden”.

Session II

Maintaining the 4 groups created in the previous session, on the second day we will try to identify the “captured” animals using the information provided by the Auxiliary Fauna I (click here) and II (click here) posters created by Ecovalia. We will project them in class (or we will print them and distribute several copies) so that each student can try to find out for themselves the name of their animal. If they can’t, the other members of the group will help them first, and if they can’t either, the whole class will try.

Other animals that help us in the garden and that do not appear on the auxiliary fauna posters are those that participate in the decomposition of organic matter. If we have observed our animal in the compost bin, buried or on the surface of the soil, it could be one of this group (search for earthworms (annelids) and ball bugs (crustaceans) on the internet).

If our animal does not belong to the previous groups, we can check if it harms us in the garden by searching the internet for the most common pests (aphids and caterpillars (insects), snails and slugs (molluscs), red spider mites (arachnids)).

If more animals than those assigned to the students were photographed or drawn, this is the moment to identify them together.

To end the session, we will reflect on which animals have been observed the most times and why they would be in the places where they were observed. We will also do it with the place where more different animals have been observed and what may be due.

The students must look for more information at home and write two short sentences that describe the main characteristics, curiosities or habits of their animal.

Session III

To finish this activity, we will know a little more about all these animals and we will make a poster that includes them. To make the poster it will be necessary for a volunteer to write down the names of the different animals on a white card, leaving space to later paste a photo or drawing of each of them. Next to each name, a positive symbol may appear, between parentheses, if it helps us in the garden or a negative one if it eats our crops or harms us in the garden in another way.

Each student will get up, say the name of their animal, where they observed it, if it benefits or harms us, and after the two sentences that describe their animal, they will say thank you and sit down after saying the name of the next student in exposing.

To conclude, we will reflect on the great diversity of life existing in the garden and the diverse functions they perform.

— Dani Trigueros

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