Mosquito Sculpture Delivers Entomology, STEAM Education at Maryland Middle School
By Faith Kuehn, Ph.D.
Meet “Wiley,” a mosquito sculpture created in a school-wide integrated education program at Wiley H. Bates Middle School in Annapolis, Maryland. Developed by the school in cooperation and consultation with the Entomological Foundation, Plan A, and the Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America, Wiley now greets all who attend Bates, an arts integration magnet school with a strong science program.
The mosquito project idea was generated during a brainstorming session with John Cambridge, my fellow co-chair of the ESA Eastern Branch Outreach Committee; the Entomological Foundation’s Chris Stelzig; Bates Science Chair Kim O’Connor, and myself. Our team saw this as a way to teach students about insects and their environment while engaging them in learning about public health and vector-borne disease, one of the three pillars of the Grand Challenge Agenda for Entomology.
With Tayler Grimail, arts specialist at Bates, the team developed a plan to erect a large mosquito sculpture and decorate it with recycled materials that might otherwise have collected water and become breeding habitats for mosquitoes. In the process, students learned about mosquitoes’ structure, habitat, and role in the environment and transmission of diseases. But the 8-foot mosquito sculpture, named “Wiley” by the students, was only part of the project. Bates teachers developed lesson plans around the sculpture project that incorporated elements of art, engineering, science, and math. They developed lesson plans to teach the middle school kids about mosquito biology and their lifecycle: how they feed, breed, grow, and adapt to a changing environment. The project also showed kids how removing trash from their neighborhood is a way to remove breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other public health risks.
The Entomological Foundation worked with Bates to launch a $5,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund this project. Primary donors’ names were included on the project plaque erected at Bates with the sculpture. The fundraising goal was met by the October 2017 deadline. Funds were used to pay for the construction, transportation, and installation of the sculpture’s frame. The 10-by-6-by-8-foot frame was fashioned out of rebar by Plan A, Inc., an educational consulting company that specializes in creating custom educational sculptures that are used to engage students, the public, and policy makers.
Students generated the ideas on how to decorate Wiley. Cans they collected were woven and painted to form the mosquito’s abdomen. Its thorax is made of plastic bags, ironed together. The compound eyes are composed of collected bottle caps. On January 26, a school-wide arts integration lesson created the wings. Every student drew a pattern of lines on small transparency squares. The squares were then glued onto Plexiglas wings, creating a beautiful mosaic. The proboscis and abdomen are painted red, signifying the blood meal. The environmental impact of the project was calculated. During the project, students removed trash that would have otherwise held 59.285 liters water and been potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The exclusive preview of Wiley tool place March 18, during the ESA Eastern Branch’s annual meeting in Annapolis. This was a special feature of the branch’s outreach program, “It’s a Bug’s World.” Students and teachers were on hand to talk about the project. Wiley then motored down the road and was installed near the school’s entrance in time for the March 19 dedication and reveal ceremony. Students and local dignitaries assembled for the ceremony while the school’s jazz band played. Students who couldn’t attend the outside ceremony lined up at classroom windows to watch. The dedication ceremony included blackout poetry readings, created by students by picking key words out of fiction and public health texts.
Given the success of the “Wiley” project, the Entomological Foundation and Eastern Branch hope that it might also become a prototype project for other schools seeking innovative ways to provide STEAM education.
The Entomological Foundation
Faith Kuehn, Ph.D., is Environmental Program Administrator for the Plant Industries division of the Delaware Department of Agriculture and co-chair of the ESA Eastern Branch “It’s a Bug’s World” outreach program. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org