Never in my life did I think I would want to save bugs. Although I’d usually put them outside (nervously), I always freaked when seeing an earwig and I ran away from bees. If you’d asked me freshman year what lab course I’d end up doing, I would have said something like “DNA Applications”. Not in a million years would I have said Insect Biology.
My sophomore year I read the New York Times article, “The Insect Apocalypse”, and I was stunned. Shortly after, I realized that I wanted to participate in the ongoing discussion about insect conservation. I came to terms with the fact that I would need to take Insect Biology to get a better perspective on my work, and reluctantly collected insects all summer long. But the closer I looked, the more interested I became. By the end of Insect Biology, I felt a close connection with “my bugs” and was happily chasing after live ones. Though I’ll still probably run away from bees, my transformation from insect avoider to insect appreciator has changed my life for the better.
In a way, my undergraduate honors project is looking for parallels to my own experience. How do attitudes about insects change and what methods can be used to change them? Since I have experience with education and a passion for informal scientific learning, I decided to examine whether participation in non-traditional lessons about insects change children’s attitudes towards the creepy-crawlies. Non-traditional experiences can include field trips, outdoor learning, museum visits, and more, but I’m focusing on afterschool programming offered by the CU Museum. I’ll be doing a pre, post, and follow-up survey with local kids as well as observing their behavior during a visit to the entomology collections. The hope is to examine insect appreciation before and after the program, as well as to suggest future actions that promote appreciation of insects and the natural world.
A new conservation psychology is one of the biggest challenges to the field of insect conservation. Insect declines are likely to continue and will contribute greatly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics across the globe. If we are to protect these incredible, fascinating, and essential creatures, better education that inspires appreciation and care of insects in the next generation might be a good place to start.