Bug Bioblitz!

by Carl Strang

(This is a cross posting from the Nature Notes blog at the Observe Your Preserve website). On Wednesday, Naturalist Nikki  Dahlin and I ventured to Winfield School to lead our first complementary program to a teacher participating in the Observe Your Preserve advisory panel. Madeleine Ciezak’s second graders, joined by another second grade class, experienced a mini bioblitz focused on bugs, loosely defined by us as arthropods and expanded by the kids to invertebrates generally.

We surveyed a public park across the street from the school, which you can see in the background.

The idea was to assess the park’s bug biodiversity on that afternoon, in other words to see how many different kinds of bugs we could find. We divided the kids into 6 teams, 3 of which focused on the lawn and sidewalks while 3 explored trees, bushes and other plants. After 15 minutes, the teams switched habitats and surveyed for another 15 minutes. Each team had a teacher or parent with them, and Nikki and I rotated among them and facilitated.

Here Nikki assists with a bug. We helped with questions that came up and made occasional suggestions, but mainly stayed out of the way and let the kids explore.

Usually one can expect that any given program or task will engage most but not all kids. No problem here, though.

Perhaps the option to be a data recorder or live specimen minder broadened the activity enough to appeal to all the learning styles represented in those classes. On the other hand, maybe bugs are so interesting to kids that age that engagement is a given.

Before we left the classroom we asked the kids to predict how many kinds of bugs we would find. Estimates ranged from 20 to millions, but 75 seemed to be a rough median. As we gave directions upon arriving at the park we asked them to predict which habitat type (lawn vs. other plants) would have the most bugs. They predicted other plants.

Protocols were not always followed exactly, but the main point was the experience, so we limited our coaching and accepted the results essentially as the kids recorded them.

After giving everyone a chance to see what all the groups caught, we answered questions about some of the more interesting species and had the kids release their specimens. Back in the classroom we presented the compiled results, and continued a discussion of bugs that could have gone on indefinitely but brought us to the end of the school day. This general format can be modified and adapted to a variety of locations and groups of organisms. Such experiences give life to a range of concepts from habitat and biodiversity to mimicry, life history, anatomy and physiology, and other lessons that cannot be fully grasped from book study.


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