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nature school

By Liz Conroy


Teaching Kids to Appreciate


With nets in hand, kids collect insects at Sandy Creek Nature Center. PHOTO COURTESY SCNC



t Sandy Creek Nature Center (SCNC), naturalist Kate Mowbray notes that learning about insects is part of many of their programs such as Babies & Beasties, Knee High Naturalists and their camps and mini-camps. She adds,“Parents can use our resources to help their children learn about insects. For example, our Insect Discovery Box can be rented for two weeks.We also have a backpack for any hike that is insect-themed, and many books in our Sky Center reading area discuss insects.” SCNC also offers insect-themed programs for Brownie Girl Scouts. In an autumn public event, insects are part of Scary Oozy Slimy Day each October. (www.athensclarkecounty. com/2774/ Sandy-Creek-Nature-Center). River Rendezvous is the Upper Oconee Watershed Network’s spring event, and participating families can learn more about small insects and other creatures living in water. (www.uown.org) At the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBG), families enjoy the large and lively Insect-ival each September. (botgarden.uga.edu/). SBG and UGA’s Entomology Department host this event. UGA supplies the insects, as well as knowledgeable students and staff who can answer visitors’ questions. Mark your 2018 calendars for Saturday, September 15 from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. for the next Insectival! The UGA Entomology Department offers UGA Bug Day Camps in July. (https://blog.caes.uga.edu/bugcamp/).They also offer an Insect Zoo which, upon request, will travel to different locations within 30 miles of the campus. It’s free, but donations are appreciated to help with travel costs and maintaining the zoo itself. (www.insectzoo.uga.edu/) For additional information contact UGA entomologist Marianne Shockley, contact entomolo@uga.edu As Harvard professor and physicist Lisa Randall wrote:“When it comes to the world, we have no choice but to explore.” Finding insects with children and learning to appreciate them is a wonderful way to explore the world.

8 Athens-Oconee Parent

Joyful moments often occur while children spend time with insects. My husband and I once traveled to Buffalo, NewYork with our 7- and 10-year-old children.We marveled at the spectacular Niagara Falls, of course. But, oh ... the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory was a special joy. Inside the warm, plant-filled spaces, we walked among hundreds of colorful, fluttering insects. Sometimes the butterflies even landed on visitors. Suddenly, Laura, our younger daughter, began to cry. When asked why, she tearfully replied,“Everyone had butterflies on them. But none came to me.” Right then, we noticed a movement on her shirt.“Look down, Laura,” I whispered.“There’s one on you right now.” She was thrilled and also immediately hooked on insects! Robert W. Matthews, UGA professor emeritus of entomology, recalls how his boyhood days included playing by a small pond in his backyard where aquatic insects lived. On his way to school he observed butterflies appearing

each year in a vacant lot. He urges parents to spend time with their children going on “critter hunts” in the backyard, the woods, or nearby parks, to see what they can find.“Insects are universally accessible,” he says.“You can easily find these little animals, learn what they are, and how they live. It’s a wonderful way to help kids develop a wider appreciation for the world.” He notes that “bug” is actually one particular type of insect but “not to get hung up on the terms.” Young children’s eyes are close to the ground, he adds.“They notice little things a lot quicker. Looking around at other forms of life also helps kids become less self-oriented.” Matthews offers several tips to adults helping children learn about insects: Try not to pass your fears onto kids. They need to be safe but not afraid of insects and other small creatures. Keeping safe means observing where everyone is stepping. For example, avoid standing on a fire ant mound. In summer, yellow jackets may have nests under leaves. Stay on paths. Be careful about sticking hands under logs because an animal living there may feel threatened. In early spring, solitary carpenter bees often appear around buildings. Unlike bumble bees they are not social. While the female is busy with her nest, the male patrols back and forth.You can observe males Sandy Creek Nature Center’s Babies and Beasties program make kids curious about insects. PHOTO COURTESY SCNC

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Athens Parent February 2018  

Athens Parent February 2018  

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