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How teachers and parents can help budding bug enthusiasts

A green grasshopper resembling a leaf standing on pavement.  Insects and bugs.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Do you know kids who can’t get enough of spiders, crickets and lightning bugs? Do they keep creepy-crawly things in glass jars in their bedroom?

They might just want to grow up to be an entomologist, a fancy word for a person who studies insects. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is here to help your budding bug enthusiast follow their passion with a host of activities featured during Bug Week 2015, taking place May 18-23.

“I was always fascinated by insects and my parents encouraged my interest – they were constantly signing me up for summer camps at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and encouraging me to participate in 4-H events that had a focus on entomology,” said Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, an associate Extension scientist  with the internationally renowned UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology department. “I think being encouraged to learn more about insects at a young age helped me build a career I am passionate about now.”

To get started, check out the Bug Week Webpage at: http://bugs.ufl.edu/.  UF/IFAS has a number of online resources there to explore, including lesson plans adapted for all grade levels and Citizen Science Projects in which they can participate. And, if they live near campus, students can take part in the UF/IFAS annual Bug Week Scavenger Hunt, scheduled for May 23 at The Florida Museum of Natural History and neighboring Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.

Students may post their best bug photos and – new this year! – original artwork during Bug Week on the UF/IFAS Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/UFIFASNews) or Twitter (#UFBugs), or email them to socialmedia@ifas.ufl.edu. Facebook users are encouraged to change their profile pictures to their favorite insect for the week.

A new lesson plan this year, with variations for all grade levels, includes the scientific theory of evolution, with students studying how genetic variation can protect a species from predators.  Students will color butterflies and hide them in their classrooms (or homes if homeschooled). Another lesson plan includes students studying which plants host Black Swallowtail Butterflies.  This lesson teaches the fundamentals of scientific inquiry and inquiry-based learning. Both lesson plans, along with many more, can be found at http://bugs.ufl.edu/lesson-plans/.

Citizen science projects are a great way for kids of any age to get involved in real, college-level science projects and include:

UF/IFAS is asking people to catch beetles and send them to our lab for scientific research to see which types of beetles live where.  Scientists  need to know what’s here, because some beetle species can be dangerous to forests and even to agricultural crops like avocados.

Learn how to create your own sampling kit, sample your backyard or schoolyard, and get the collection back to scientists so that they can identify the ants and add your species to the big School of Ants map. Together we’ll map ant diversity and species ranges across North America.

UF/IFAS researchers are asking people to become a Buzz-Watcher to create a habitat for bees and wasps (bugs that are really important to the environment), build a nest site with our free plans (and take pictures of it), and monitor the nest for new bees and wasps, pollen and eggs. You can also see the results of other people’s studies.

“Winning Investigative Network for Great Science” is a partnership between 4-H youth (but you do not have to be in 4-H) and professional scientists at UF. Participating youth are “citizen scientists” who collect data on butterflies to help professional scientists determine the presence or absence of specific butterfly species and the abundance of butterfly species by state and county throughout the country.

You will also find at http://bugs.ufl.edu:

  • A printable insect coloring page;
  • An art page that will feature your original submissions;
  • A daily Bug Blog, with fun bug facts;
  • And a “What Butterfly Are You?” quiz.

Finally, we have more than a dozen short videos for classroom use. Find them here: http://bugs.ufl.edu/videos/

Check back on the Bug Week Website for additional videos and updates at http://bugs.ufl.edu/.

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Source: Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, 352-273-3950, gillett@ufl.edu

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