On March 12, the Jugatae Outreach Committee, Cornell’s entomology club for graduate students, participated in Kid’s Science Day at the Big Red Barn and Expanding Your Horizon conference at Barton Hall, where they shared their entomological knowledge with local kids.
As a student-run club, the JOC comprises many subdivisions, including a professional development committee, a social committee and an outreach committee, which represented the club at the annual Kid’s Science Day. In addition to entomology, the event featured various other scientific topics and sectors ranging from ornithology to polymer chemistry, all led by graduate student organizations and clubs.
“It was a bunch of little kids running around, and we had some pinned insects, some live insects and I brought my tarantula,” Jugatae outreach chair Kayla O’Hearn said. “[W]e had this cute little activity where the kids could build their own bugs with sticks and rocks. It was cool.”
In addition to Kid’s Science Day, the outreach committee has been involved in Cornell’s annual Insectapalooza, a one-day insect festival held in Stocking Hall, and more recently, the Expanding Your Horizons event, which took place on April 1 and focuses on introducing young girls to STEM topics.
Expanding Your Horizons is a one-day conference geared towards seventh to ninth-grade students aiming to “stimulate participants’ interest in math and science through hands-on activities, provid[ing] scientist role models and foster[ing] awareness of opportunities in math and science-related careers,” according to their website.
The conference was founded in 1988 by a group of graduate students and has since expanded greatly to accommodate the growing popularity of the program.
As participants in the conference, the JOC were able to share their entomological passions with enthusiastic young scientists.
“The kids come in and we talk to them about characteristics that make an insect versus an arachnid, we take them to the collection, we show them drawers, we tell them about how insects are important and how diverse they can be and we talk about insect diagnostics since we have the insect diagnostic lab in the collection,” O’Hearn said.
The JOC additionally led an activity where students were assigned an insect and given a prompt about where it was found. For example, students were tasked with determining the type of insect found on a farmer’s plant. By classifying insects using specimens from the Cornell University Insect Collection as a reference, the committee hoped to educate young scientists about the importance of accurate identification and give them real-world scenarios of applying entomological knowledge.
With so many negative connotations surrounding insects, the JOC hopes to show young students that these specimens are beneficial for our environment through their roles as secondary decomposers and managing pests, among other contributions.
The club aims to emphasize the relevancy of insect specimens from an agricultural, financial and ecological perspective, noting how pests can affect crops and the subsequent economic success of farms. From a broader perspective, the committee stresses that insect decline threatens many of the agricultural and food systems that we may take for granted.
“Children can grow to appreciate insects and not have as much of that fear that you see in a lot of adults today,” O’Hearn said. “In the community I come from, a lot of people have that negative perception of bugs, so it’s a way for me to give back.”
Anna Labiner is a staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected]