Last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a presentation about insects to the third grade class of Arboretum Elementary in Waunakee, Wisconsin.  It was a fantastic opportunity, and I very much enjoyed seeing kids be so excited and enveloped in the world of insects.

Showing the third grade a selection of Wisconsin insects from four orders: Diptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and Hemiptera.

Showing the third grade a selection of Wisconsin insects from four orders: Diptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and Hemiptera.

The outreach program for the UW Insect Ambassadors is a simple operation – just a bunch of graduate students who love insects and sharing that knowledge and excitement with kids and adults, alike.  I brought a large sample of preserved and live insects to share with the kids – cases of Wisconsin natives, huge, exotic beetles and butterflies/moths.  The live specimens included Madagascar hissing cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa), peppered cockroaches (Archimandrita tesselata), tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta), and a Japanese walking stick (Phasmatodea).

The kids were absolutely fantastic (all ~120 of them!) – well behaved, captivated, interactive, and incredibly smart.  Almost every hand went up when I asked for questions at the end of the presentation, and I was very impressed with the caliber of questions and background knowledge that the kids possessed.  One went so far as to describe the phenomena of pest resurgence to me – the idea that, after applying insecticides, a subsequent and worse outbreak of the pest you are trying to eliminate occurs.  Wow!  They had been in the middle of their insect unit within the science unit of their schooling, and that certainly showed.  The teachers there must be doing a great job exposing them to the world of insects and insect biodiversity.

Their intelligence and excitement, I think, reflects the quality of their schooling and more generally, the school itself.  The relatively new building is brilliantly designed and provides an example of a school in a community that cares deeply about the education of their children.  This is such an important foundation for our society: a diverse background in subject material, highlighting the importance of being exposed do a variety of scientific fields.  If only our government would see the value in spending the extra dollars to produce such quality institutions for all kids, regardless of their socioeconomic standing or the “performance” of their districts.  All kids have the right to a top-notch education and school system.  Hopefully Washington and the state capitals around the county come to that realization, soon.

A big thanks to the teachers and students at Arboretum Elementary for having me, including my Ant Erica who is currently a long-term sub (and hopefully full-time teacher soon!) at Arboretum.  I will be back!

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