Insects in Elementary Class for Early Lessons in Life

  • Abstract

    1994-1998 – We propose a nationwide dissemination program for the publication “Using Live Insects in the Elementary Classroom for Early Lessons in Life.” This publication consists of 20 lesson plans for teachers at the K-3 level. Each lesson plan has a health-related topic and fosters a scientific approach to problem-solving. The lessons utilize a whole-language format hands-on experiences brainstorming and discussion to foster inquiry and discovery. The method for developing the lessons involved a partnership between university scientists and elementary-school teachers. Teachers provided input of what works best in the classroom. Scientists provided ideas as to what kinds of projects with insects would be feasible. The scientist-teacher teams that designed the lessons adopted as their guide the State Essential Skills in Health and Science of several states. In so doing they created lessons that address the essential skills within health and science and which fit naturally into teachers curricula. The use of the scientific method is at the heart of every lesson ranging from observation and conjecture at the kindergarten level to experimenting and compiling data in the higher grades. By performing science or science- related activities students acquire a keener understanding of the health topics of each lesson and learn clearly and directly what science is and how to use it in their lives. Teachers who have used the lesson plans in the classroom have found that they are effective and useful. The evaluation showed a significant increase in the number of teachers who felt confident about teaching science in the elementary classroom and 80% of the teachers said that they would continue to use the lesson plans to teach science process. Our objectives for the present proposal are to: Disseminate the lesson plans nationwide. Using a targeted program of Leadership Institutes in 36 states and workshops at the annual National Science Teachers Association meetings we will train about 1200 teachers in the use of the lessons. Perform a path-referenced evaluation of the lesson plans and the dissemination methods Complete a translation and formative essay evaluation of the Spanish version 1991-1994 – This proposal is the first part (Materials Development) of a four part elementary education initiative using insects in the classroom. The project at hand is complete and distinct in its own right. The health related curricular materials developed in this project will be disseminated through the network and training activities. “Using Insects in Elementary Classrooms for Early Lessons in Life” will develop 20 sets of health lessons and activities for students in grades K-3; hold workshops for teachers using the materials; test the lessons and activities in classrooms; and make refinements based on teacher evaluations. In each lesson insects will be studied to learn important concepts of human growth or well being. Living insects were chosen as a vehicle because children seem to have an innate fascination for and curiosity about them. Insects are available inexpensive and many require little maintenance. As a focus of enthusiasm and interest insects will permit teachers to introduce topics that otherwise could be delicate or embarrassing. With insects such topics will arise naturally. To make the materials exciting and attractive each health lesson topic will have hands-on science activities. Children will have opportunities to apply basic skills to interdisciplinary activities while making observations. Basic skills and interdisciplinary tie-ins will appeal to a strength or interest of every pupil. This SEPA project will establish new interactive partnerships of classroom teachers and scientists to develop ideas on specific health topics and to develop complete lesson plans materials lists student data worksheets and closure activities for summarizing the lessons. The final draft lessons will be tested by 191 classrooms: 131 in the area of the University of Arizona. National dissemination will begin by testing the lessons in 60 classrooms in three school districts in Missouri Massachusetts and Mississippi. These sites will become the foci for future national training and dissemination. By blending health and life skills lessons with science activities this project will channel children’s natural curiosity for insects towards expectations of how they can become optimum adult humans. Having a living model to which children can relate will help them remember important health facts in a positive way. One of the side benefits of these insect science activities is prolonging students’ dreams of science careers. In a decade when science careers are decreasing more healthy students considering science careers through their elementary years will have important consequences for American science and technology. Most of the project will center around the University of Arizona. The project staff and main team of scientists and teachers will operate out of the Center for Insect Science at the university. A second small team will operate in the area of the University of Massachusetts.