Getting kids interested in science today can be no easy trick, but Craig Wilson, senior research associate in the Center for Science and Mathematics Education at Texas A&M University, has always believed bugs might be the answer – lots of bugs.
Wilson, with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Southern Plains Area Research Center, has shipped almost 17,000 corn earworms to students in grades K-12 in 12 states at no cost to youngsters so they can learn about the wonders of science. Included in that number are all fifth-graders in 14 Bryan elementary schools, and at 9 a.m. Wednesday (May 6), students representing seven Bryan schools will present their top projects to teachers and parents at the USDA Research Center on F&B road.
Schools with students showing their work are Navarro, Kemp, Johnson, Bonham, Crockett, Sam Houston and Anson Jones. The students will discuss their individual research projects that involved studying various aspects of the corn earworm as it transforms from its larvae stage into a moth. Among the many topics to be covered involve the enemies of moths, such as bats, of which there are plenty of colonies in the Brazos Valley, Wilson says.
“The whole idea of this is to get kids interested in the life sciences and enthuse them about the many fields of science,” Wilson explains.
“The kids will talk about their projects and we’ll have an expert from the Pollen Research Lab who will show them where an insect has traveled just by the pollen sticking to it. We’ll give them lunch and tours of several labs and show them that scientists are really not nerdy guys who wear pocket protectors while pouring chemicals into test tubes. Hopefully, many of these kids will be inspired enough to pursue a career as a scientist.”
This is the fifth year Wilson has conducted the bugs-to-schools program and the response, he says, “has been overwhelmingly positive. I really believe the parents and the teachers seem to enjoy it just as much as the students,” he notes.
It’s been such a success story that Wilson has taken his show on the road. On May 15, he’ll conduct a similar bug program to more than 1,500 fifth-graders in the Weslaco ISD in South Texas, and in June he’ll travel to California to give a similar program in schools there (this one involving bees) and another in Arizona to talk about watershed issues such as how rainfall – too little or too much – can impact people there.
“I really enjoy doing this, but the important thing is, it seems to work,” Wilson says of the program that has involved more than 22,000 students and 276 teachers nationwide since its inception.
“By studying a simple bug – in this case a corn earworm – you can open up the eyes of these young students and show them how much fun the wonders of science can really be,” he says.