Arthropods have a unique ability to inspire very emotional reactions in people. Some adult naturaphiles appreciate bugs, but reactions more commonly range from mild apathy to acute fear and loathing. Thankfully, kids are a different story – bugs are attention magnets.
This natural fascination can be a fantastic teaching tool – one that Frank lab members Kristi Backe, April Hamblin, and Warren Sconiers know well. They led a crew of nine graduate students from N.C. State to Jones Elementary School in Wilson, NC, to teach a huge group of elementary schoolers – 640 students to be exact! – about the importance (and coolness) of arthropods.
The K – 5th grade students rotated through four stations with different live arthropods and learned where they live, what they eat (not people), how they defend themselves, how diverse they are, and why they are important. Most of the students were very excited to have their turn to hold them.
April captained another station with native bee specimens and two baskets of fruit, one overflowing with bee-pollinated abundance (peaches, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, pumpkins, lemons, pears, apples, peppers!) and the other with a paltry few of our food crops that are not pollinated by bees (corn, potatoes, carrot, and banana). The NCSU team even went the extra mile and busted out the bug costumes.
The event was such a success it seems that the team may have left a lasting influence on the way science is taught at Jones Elementary – after seeing the enthusiasm and engagement of their students, many of the teachers were clamoring to bring live insects into their classrooms. Now THAT’S an emotional reaction we’d like to see more of!
A donation from Bayer Cropscience for travel costs and materials made it possible for the N.C. State students to bring this program to Jones.