School’s out! For many, outdoor adventures abound, which means plenty of opportunity for some entomology. And just what is entomology? Entomology is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of insects, like ants, bees, and beetles.
For an introduction to entomology, have a listen to a podcast in The Walking Classroom’s Science Career Series. You can hear from Colin Brammer, Ph.D., an entomologist who also happens to be the Coordinator of the Natural World Investigate Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The podcast with Dr. Brammer is easily accessible, either for free via our website or on WalkKits in three of The Walking Classroom’s program offerings:
• Program 4 – #92
• Program 5 – #98
• STEM – #52
A Bit of Background . . .
With a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D in biology, and a master’s degree in entomology, Dr. Brammer is certainly well-informed on the insect world! As he is such an expert, it’s hard to believe that insects weren’t Dr. Brammer’s first interest. Actually, when he was younger, he wanted to be a musician!
During his freshman year of college, he took a biology class and loved it. He continued to take every biology class he could and, in his junior year, happened upon an entomology class. From that moment, he was hooked! He continued his studies, focusing on soldier flies for his dissertation. Today, he is in charge of one of the three Investigate Labs at the museum, answering questions and guiding people in their own exploration of the natural world.
. . . and a Little Something about Soldier Flies
Here’s a fun fact for you: Soldier flies, or stratiomyidae, are known as “true” flies. The reason for this nickname? It is because they have just one pair of wings. Flies that have two pairs of wings, like dragon flies and damsel flies, are not “true” flies!
It is often the size and color patterns that serve to distinguish soldier flies from one another. South American varieties are known for their females’ bright metallic blue color, while North American varieties are recognized for the yellow and black striping that resembles soldiers’ uniforms (and which may have led to their name!).
There’s a lot to learn about insects! Did you know that there are over 1 million different described species? All of them share certain basic characteristics, including a three-part body, three pairs of legs, compound eyes, and one pair of antennae! And while all bugs are insects, not all insects are bugs!
Fascinated by brightly colored insects? Be wary! Appearances can be deceiving. Think of those brilliant hues (particularly yellow, orange, or red, when paired with black) as nature’s warning, and keep away!
Finished with Features?
Then focus on habitat, by introducing your students to the environments in which different insects thrive. Study the construction of insect homes by building a beehive, or have your students try their hand at a variety of activities via a ready-made booklet!
Follow up with a chat about insects’ role in the environment. Some are friends, and some are foes. Have your students identify some of those pesky insects and create “Wanted” posters. Complete with a large illustration and some basic information, they’ll make some interesting wall decor in your classroom!
Activities Abound — Assessments, Experiments, and More!
Armed with all this newfound knowledge, you and your students are likely feeling well-informed on insects. So why not assess your crew with an interactive activity! See if they can determine whether insect information is fact or fake.
Or focus on the visual! Test your students’ observation skills and see if they can find some insects who are masters of disguise.
Creative Cross-Curricular Connections!
There’s always the opportunity to make some cross-curricular connections, even with insects! It’s easy to bring math into the mix. Once you’ve completed an insect study or experiment, create a bar graph to share your findings.
Get artsy! Give your students time to examine insect drawings; they may be inspired to create their own! Then throw some ELA into the mix! Have your students use the information they’ve learned about the environments in which different insects thrive to create a travel brochure to lure insects to specific habitats!