Outreach Update | Winter 2010

Last October, the Department of Entomology held its thirteenth annual program Science on Six Legs: An Insectaganza of Education. The event was attended by 786 fifth graders from 12 schools in the Greater Lafayette/Tippecanoe County area. The four components of the program, Insect Lecture, Insect Dissection, Insect Theater, and Quiz Bowl were designed to promote awareness of science (especially insect science), cultivate critical thinking skills, provide lessons on basic insect biology, taxonomy and morphology, and expose fifth graders to life on a university campus and the possibility of higher education.

 

Using a lecture type format, Professor Jeff Holland, presented Triassic Insects: What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Along with members from his research group, Hossam Abdel Moniem, Kapil Raje and John Shukle, Professor Holland provided students with lessons and hands-on activities designed to engage students and provide the answers to questions like: Which insects (or other arthropods) were around during the time the dinosaurs first appeared on the Earth, the Triassic Period? The audience was also treated to some amazing images and interesting facts about the ancestors of contemporary insects.

 

Insect Dissection was led under the direction of Professor Jonathan Neal’s ENTM 105 students, pre-service teachers, and by graduate and undergraduate students from the Department of Entomology. The intention is that the fifth graders will use this process as a means of learning about the morphology of the lubber grasshopper. This activity offers a unique opportunity for university-level students to experience firsthand the challenges and rewards associated with classroom management and the education of elementary students.

 

Professor Tom Turpin collaborated with students from the Honors 299: Theater and Science class at Purdue University to present songs and dances created to communicate information about both the insect biology and the benefits associated with insects. The students created Entomology Live! a reality television show produced for ABC (the American Bug Channel) which included elements of the popular television shows American Idol, The Bachelorette and the Amazing Race. Some key concepts presented were the communicative “dance” of the honey bee, a lesson about pheromones and the role they play in insect attraction, the important jobs of ants within a colony, and an overview of the ant life cycle.

 

Arwin Provonsha served as this year’s Quiz Bowl moderator with the help of graduate students Megan Critser and Terri Hoctor. Questions were drawn from the publication How to Make an AWESOME Insect Collection: A Beginner’s Guide to Finding, Collecting, Mounting, Identifying and Displaying Insects by Timothy J. Gibb and Christian Y. Oseto. The winning teams from Battleground, Faith Christian, Happy Hollow, Lafayette Christian, Edgelea and Oakland will be invited to return in the spring to compete in the Quiz Bowl associated with our annual Bug Bowl.

 

In order to assess how close we are to achieving our goals, we surveyed participating teachers; of the 32 teachers, 18 responded to this post event survey. 100% of those say that Insectaganza contributes to their curriculum, promotes awareness and appreciation of science and benefits their students and curriculum. A sample of the questions from the survey follows, along with some of the teachers’ comments.

 

How does Insectaganza contribute to your curriculum?

  • "It correlates beautifully with an insect project we complete in one of our science units."
  • "Meets science standards – especially those concerning diversity of life."
  • "Provides science process skills."
  • "Contributes to our curriculum by providing our students with enrichment activities that directly relate to our cellular biology unit in science."
  • "Insectaganza is an interesting addition to life sciences."
  • "We study insects (in the classroom) and this is a good culminating activity for our unit on insects."
  • "Provides a cultural experience for low income students, demonstrates that science can be fun and informative using hands on experiences."
  • "Encourages discussions about the living world."
  • "I love how it reinforces our curriculum."

Do you believe that this event promotes an awareness and appreciation of science?

  • "Yes, many of my students see new ways they could be involved in the scientific field."
  • "Yes, insects are a naturally interesting topic for fifth graders."
  • "The students are extremely interested about science once they leave Insectaganza."
  • "Yes, I absolutely believe this program promotes science."

How does Insectaganza benefit your students?

  • "Provides connections to the campus and programs at Purdue."
  • "Reinforces classroom learning."
  • "Not only does it give them a better appreciation of science, it also allows them to see actual classrooms on campus."
  • "Insectaganza allows students at the elementary level to experience a sample of what concentrated learning is like at the college level."
  • "They saw that insects can be fun!"
  • "They see Purdue scientists and teachers."
  • "Insectaganza is a great way to provide exposure to the university, as well as a fun way to teach about insects."