Studying bugs can help students learn


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Posted: 7/19/2007


Entomologists and wildlife and fisheries faculty at Mississippi State University think you can learn a lot from insects, so they are interested in developing a curriculum for K-12 education that uses the creepy-crawlies to teach a variety of subjects.

For about 15 years, Mississippi State University's Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology has been offering an annual Bug Camp to youth and adults. Years of hosting these camps and learning how to teach fun and useful facts about insects has left organizers with a wealth of teaching materials for young people.

John Guyton, an MSU Extension Service professor of wildlife and fisheries in the College of Forest Resources, wants to take this information and formalize it as a curriculum. He thinks the Extension Service network will be an effective way to distribute this curriculum supplement and help entomologists and teachers connect in other states.

"Insects are our No. 1 interaction with wildlife," Guyton said. "We're trying to develop a K-12 curriculum supplement containing lesson plans for incorporating insects and arachnids in all subjects.”

Understanding more about insects will allow people to live more successfully with them. Guyton gave the example of what happens when a wasp strays into a classroom. Often teachers and children swat at the wasp. If the class understood how the wasp's compound eyes work, they would realize that wasps are alarmed and respond more aggressively to motion than to students sitting still in class.

Guyton and his team are now looking for teachers to volunteer to help make this ambitious "Project Bug” happen.

"This is an opportunity for teachers to get in on the ground level. By helping develop the curriculum, they will learn how to use it in their own classrooms,” Guyton explained.

He said the curriculum, once developed, will be useful in teaching science, mathematics, social studies and other subjects through insects and spiders. Guyton helped develop the national education standards for science and environmental education, and while working in Kentucky, helped write a curriculum framework for that state.

Once this insect and arachnid curriculum is developed for Mississippi, other states can copy its content and align it to meet their own state standards.

David Held, Extension entomologist at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, is trying to recruit teachers to help out with this ambitious project.

"We have years' worth of teaching ideas from entomology camp, and we want to get a bunch of teachers together to establish how to teach with bugs,” Held said. "We need them to help write the curriculum and make sure they are comfortable with the activities. Most adults are not comfortable with bugs, but kids are.”

Curriculum organizers are considering hosting three teacher workshops in Verona at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Starkville at MSU and in Biloxi at the Coastal Research and Extension Center. These intensive workshops will offer teachers an abbreviated entomology camp experience, with one night in the woods collecting insects and much of the rest of the time spent putting the curriculum together.v

Once developed, Held said the curriculum will be an asset to public and private school teachers as well as home-school families.

For more information on Bug Camp or on the development of this curriculum, contact Guyton at (662) 325-3482 or, or Held at (228) 388-4710 or

Wildlife and Fisheries