Last week I spent 3 hours of my evening showing insects to elementary kids for the Illuminate! Oromocto event run by Science East. Science East is an outreach association that promotes science to people of all ages through innovative and interactive exhibits in English and French.
The event I volunteered for was Illuminate! Oromocto. With the help of Steve Heard, I was able to put together a little display about insects and have two live walking sticks to entertain and teach kids about the awesomeness of insects. This event happened to be in French. So I practiced the names of the insects and body parts in French before going to make sure I wasn’t going to make any mistakes.
It was a great evening. About 40 kids came to see the display and hold the stick insects. They were all very excited; most wanted to let the stick insects crawl on them. Others at first only wanted to touch them on the back but then decided to hold them. The kids and adults also wanted to have a look through the microscope to investigate the tiger beetle I had set up and look at the butterflies in the display drawer. I even had about a dozen kids come back 2-3 times to hold the walking stick insects a second time or look at the insects under the microscope again. They all had a story to tell me about the pet stick insect they had in class the year before or about their monarch release program they had this year where they learned about and saw monarch larvae pupate, eclose into adult which they released. They all had excellent questions and were very eager to tell their parents what they had just learned.
Their interest reminded me of the same enthusiasm of the kids that came to visit the Lyman Entomological Museum, no matter the language of presentation. During my BSc and my MSc at the Lyman, I gave tours in both English and French showing the insects in the collection and letting them hold live bugs. This past week, however, it was mostly in French, but if some kids had a hard time with French, I explained some principles in English and we moved back and forth between both languages. I think this language flexibility made things even more enjoyable for everybody at the event.
I must conclude by saying, most kids find insects fascinating; some sadly lose it as they grow up, others forget that they were keen on bugs. But, last week I noticed while I was talking with some of the parents at Illuminer! Oromocto that they were happy to hold the insects, look through the microscope and marvel at the colors and diversity. I guess, in general (if we’re not entomologists), we don’t lose our fascination for insects but rather forget that we liked them no matter the language!