On September 9th and 10th the Youth Education Department at Memphis Botanic Garden hosted the Incredible Insects educational festival for elementary students. Several hundred students from local schools and homeschool groups came to the event. Multiple stations were set up along the Hosta/Hydrangea/Magnolia Trails for the groups to go through as they learned about the amazing life of the most diverse animal world.
Students got to take a peek into the underwater world by sampling pond water and examining macro-invertebrates (mainly dragonfly nymphs and water striders) under magnification. At the Beetle Magnet craft station, students learned unique and weird adaptations in the invertebrate world and applied them as they created their own beetle to take home. Anatomy of insects was taught through a fun song and dance, life cycles amazed students at the matching game, and they discovered surprising yet familiar adaptations of mouth parts as they learned to sip nectar from a proboscis.
Did you know: that dragonflies spend over half their life in water? That caterpillars have mouths like tweezers to snip leaves? That ladybugs are a type of beetle? Or how about that, if we had the jumping capability like that of a flea, we would be able to jump over 500 feet in one hop?
Students also got to decorate their own bug boxes and magnifiers and to learn about decomposers, as they dug and sifted through the leaf litter in our forest looking for an insect friend. The most amazing of all of the activities was seeing Dr. Allen Underwood's amazing insect collection. He's been collecting since he was 9 years old, and now proudly boasts an extensive and amazing insect collection. For the students, he displayed 8 cases of insects from beautiful to scary, large to small, camouflaged to brightly colored, and everything in between!
It was a great morning sharing our love and respect for nature with our local schoolchildren. We look forward to doing it again next year!
-Charity Novick, Education Program Coordinator