Like most entomologists, I’ve done lots of classroom instruction with elementary school children. Most of my grad student and postdocs do as well, as do manyof the undergrads who work with us. Special credit goes to one of my former MS students, Kirsten Haberkern, who formed the group “Insect Ambassadors” – https://webhosting.cals.wisc.edu/insectambassadors. This provides continuity and a portal into our department’s K-12 function.
About 15 years ago, I started looking at my role in K-12 education differently. Because my wife teaches children with reading disabilities, we started tailoring our presentation specifically for them. The whole idea is that insects are not only interesting, but that they are so interesting that even reluctant readers will want to learn more, and insects engage in so many activities that following them can expand a child’s reading vocabulary.
Anne prepares these first and second grade students with various action words, which can then be paired with various insects I bring in (jump, sting, fly, hop, bite). They write books, poems, games, and do crossword puzzles, drawings, and mazes about insects. Even though these special-ed children are ranked in the bottom of their classes, they produce amazing work. Some even continue to mail us their new writings during the summer. The credit goes to the children, Anne, and of course the insects themselves. A few of my favorites from their many works are below.
An Original Haiku by Trevon
Grasshoppers jump real high
So high they can touch the sky
That’s how high – sky high!
A Haiku by Kenisha
It visits at dusk
Fireflies light the night sky
Without any fear.
Grasshoppers Fighters and Enemies
Grasshoppers have enemies and because of this they have to protect themselves. Sometimes they will kick an enemy with their strong back legs and sometimes they will even spit on them. If you go and try to pick one up, it might spit on you!
Two grasshopper enemies are birds and mice. These animals try to catch and eat them. Spiders try to catch them too in their webs. They get stuck on the web and then get eaten.
Even insects try to kill grasshoppers. Robber flies try to suck apart their body. Wasps trap them and kill them so that they can have food for their babies. Some insects live in the dirt and eat their buried eggs.
I learned a lot about grasshoppers and want to learn even more. And I like them so I am not their enemy.