One of the things we love to do is get kids excited about all kinds of science. And one sure-fire hit with kids is bugs. Love 'em or hate 'em (and most kids are in the love category....way more than the adults), insects and their relatives are sure to get a reaction from almost anyone.
Here at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center's Wooster campus, we are blessed with a fun, fabulous and FREE Bug Zoo. If you've never been, it's a treat. All kinds of creepy-crawlies to learn about, touch and enjoy...plus some fabulously huge arthropod props mounted to the wall our Bug Zoo caretaker Miss Judy managed to track down. It's awesome.
But obviously, not everyone is blessed to have such a resource in their home or classroom (as many of you are thinking, "Thank goodness!"). So books become a great resource for teaching kids about the science of insects. Bonus? It also helps kids get excited about reading, and bug books can be really fun non-fiction books for kids to enjoy.
One service we offer is making trips to schools who are unable to visit our campus in person because of financial or distance issues, either through our OARDC on the Road program or through our Guest Reader program. We love to read! One of our favorite books to take is My Book of Bugs. What makes it fun is that the book is only one small part of our magic box:
In addition to the book, which we definitely enjoy reading with the kids, we've also scoured convenience store bargains and our insect archive collection (not to mention our native environment: the fabulous outdoors). To find examples of the insects discussed in My Book of Bugs.
Target has a fabulous little collection in their dollar bins this spring, including models like these, the spongy-capsules that "grow" into insects in water and some basic bug-hunting supplies. These are great, especially if you are leery of real-life insects or you have some kids that aren't sure about the whole bug thing. The key is, the kids get their cues from you, the adult. If you are freaked out by the real-life insects, they will be, too. If you act like they are cool (even if that's not what you're really thinking), the kids will, too.
We add to that some mounted species. This is excellent for kids, because in our experience kids tend to have a lot of difficulty distinguishing the difference between "real" and "dead." I like to say these bugs are "real dead." Did you think it was funny? The kids don't normally laugh either....it's OK. For example, we bring along this mounted Atlas Moth:
And finally, what really makes this a fund experience for the kids is bringing along some real-life critters. You can find some of these locally on your own, like these crickets:
They're just super-excited to be out and about on classroom visits. Each day they spend outside the Bug Zoo is one less day they have to worry about Miss Judy feeding them to the bigger buggies. Oops! I hope they didn't hear that!
And finally, we do have in our arsenal a couple of things the average parent or teacher is not going to be able to readily put their hands on:
Recognize them? Yep, these are Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches...the very same kind made famous on Fear Factor when people would lay with them or even eat them. None of that goes on during my watch.....ick.
Besides, we have other programs during the year for eating bugs.....
But we'll save the deatils of A Bug's World for another post another time...