Collecting insects is a fun way to learn a little science and appreciate artful forms.
Kids bugging you?
Kathryn A. Kahler
Few activities compare to insect collecting to nurture a child's curiosity about the natural world, and there's no better time than the dog days of summer to get them started. Whether you're looking for ways to keep the kids busy in the waning weeks of summer vacation or on the family camping trip, or if you just have a curious pre-schooler in the family, the insect world provides literally millions of opportunities for discovery.
You don't need to spend a fortune to get your youngster started down the path to what could become a lifelong hobby. Many online sites offer inexpensive materials made especially for kids. The University of Kentucky has a great website, Entomology for Kids and Teachers, with ideas and activities available free of charge.
Start out simple with a few items around the house, like an empty peanut butter jar and a magnifying glass. If you find you have a budding entomologist on your hands, you can invest in a sweep net, an identification guide (be sure to check out second-hand book stores), a mounting board and some collection and labeling supplies. Serious student entomologists will find the Kentucky 4-H Entomology Guide to Insect Collecting and State Fair Projects especially useful for learning proper pinning and labeling techniques.
Parts of insect collecting can be harmful if not done properly, so young children should be carefully supervised. But don't let that keep you from getting out and discovering the wide world of bugs. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Don't like the thought of sacrificing bugs in the name of science? Consider letting your child collect and study live insects, start a photo collection or create an online collection. Capturing insects on film or a digital camera has the added benefit of teaching basic photography skills. Take it a step further and they can learn computer presentation techniques including photo editing, word processing and web posting skills. In your favorite web search engine, enter "how to create a photo insect collection" in the search box.
Kathryn A. Kahler is staff writer for Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.