Holding a square, plastic container, Kathleen Walker turned toward the captivated group of dozens of elementary school students seated before her.
She asked: "Do you think there's a cow in here?" The kindergarteners respond in unison: "No!" Walker smiled a bit. "No, that would be silly, right?"
The show and tell was part of Insect Discovery, a University of Arizona program now in its seventh year that receives support from the UA and the National Science Foundation.
After gently pulling something from the box, Walker, a UA entomologist, opened her hands to reveal one of her "favorite animals," an elongated oval-shaped insect nearly the length of an iPhone named "Bob."
This drew some "whoas," giggles, scrunched noses and wide-eyed expressions. Then Walker explained that Bob was a cockroach from Madagascar.
"Some people think it's made out of wood, but it's made out of bug," Walker said about Bob, later showing the group live millipedes and display cases of beetles, butterflies, moths and other insects.
Insect Discovery reaches more than 2,000 students annually, educating them about insect anatomy, behavior and biology while informing them about the wonders of science.
"What this does is expose students to science – not that the whole class would go on to be scientists, but that they would each have some familiarity, some appreciation and some excitement about it," said Goggy Davidowitz, a UA assistant professor of entomology.
Davidowitz, who also helped create and launch Insect Discovery, has funded the program via his own research grants, encouraging others to do the same. After receiving a CAREER Award in 2010 from NSF, he earmarked five years of funding.
"This shows the community that the University is very interested in outreach," Davidowitz said, adding that he and others continue to solidify additional external funding for the program to expand the program.
Read more from this January 4 UANews article at the link below.