By Josh Lancette
– “People with tarantulas have more fun.”
– “When you have an insect, you have people’s attention.”
– “Those cookies you just ate? They were made with crickets.”
These are not phrases one hears every day, but they were par for the course at STEMbugs, a one-day teacher’s workshop hosted by the Entomological Foundation to instruct more than 60 area teachers (and some students) on how to incorporate insects into the classroom. This year the event was held on November 12 at the Minneapolis Convention Center during the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America.
Attendees learned through interactive presentations and hands-on activities how to create homes for mason bees out of blocks of wood, where to find the best lesson plans and curricula, and how to make flies defecate the rainbow (hint: it involves feeding them different colors of Jell-O).
The sessions were taught by a lively group of experts in entomology from around the country who believe that insects are not only interesting in and of themselves, but can be used to teach valuable lessons on biology, conservation of the environment, climate change, and even engineering.
While most of the day featured clear instruction and a sense of fun and community, it did not prevent a bit of subterfuge from creeping in.
During lunch, Dr. Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota gave a presentation on the evolving monarch migration patterns in North America. While she was talking, some homemade chocolate chip cookies were passed around for dessert to the audience, who heartily enjoyed them. After everyone had eaten their cookies, Dr. Oberhauser announced that the cookies had been made using ground crickets, much to the surprise (and perhaps chagrin) of those in attendance.
In the closing session, Dr. Tom Turpin of Purdue University, a former high school teacher himself, said that “the best education is when the student doesn’t know it’s happening.”
In the case of the cricket-laced cookies, perhaps the best education really occurs when the teacher doesn’t know it’s happening either.
The Entomological Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that is partnered with the Entomological Society of America. The Foundation’s mission it is to build a future for entomology by educating young people about science through insects. Resources for students, teachers, and parents can be found on their website at http://www.entfdn.org.
Josh Lancette is Manager of Publications at the Entomological Society of America.