Bugs Among Us
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Bugs Among Us

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This workshop is remix of the 🌱 Urban Ecology workshop series from PLIX. It was developed by Tyler Hahn of Cherokee Public Library in Iowa as part of the PLIX Rural and Tribal Library Toolkit Co-Design, which was sponsored by MIT J-WEL, the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab.

Overview

Welcome to Bugs Among Us! Entomology is the study of insects (things with six legs), and arachnology is the study of spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, ticks, and mites (things with eight legs). Both Insects and arachnids are ubiquitous and can be observed and collected in nearly every habitat in nearly every part of the world (including libraries!) regardless of season or whether your facility has inside or outside space. Insects are ideal organisms for study by urban, suburban, and rural youth. Insects share all our spaces, regardless of socioeconomic status or where we live. This PLIX remix is designed to be a patron-powered activity that you can facilitate while working the circulation desk, asking the participants to do each next step as they complete the previous one.

Activity at a Glance

This activity can operate as either a structured workshop or a drop-in activity.

  • Age Range: 8–13 years old
  • Group Size: 1–5 participants
  • Number of Facilitators: 1–2
  • Activity Length: 2 hours
  • Cost: $0–3 per participant
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PLIX Tip: Remember, like all PLIX activities, we encourage you to use this guide as a jumping off point β€” feel free to remix it to suit your local community! And if you try something new, we'd love to hear about it on the PLIX Discussion Forum.

Supply Kit

Pencils
Markers
Tape to adhere specimens (we recommend semi-transparent paper tape)
Paper or printouts of a site plan (to map where specimens were found)
Scissors
Glue sticks
Optional: magnifying glass/hand lends, or fold scope.
Build a Better Bug part printouts, precut into pieces by you or by patrons Note: rather than printing, these can be cut directly by a cutting machine like a Cricut if you have one.

Workshop Flow

Framing (5 minutes)

Set up the activity by framing a key question:

What bugs live among us? Today, we will be exploring the interior of the library (or another defined area outside) to survey what insects, arachnids, and other very small, crawling animals we can find!

Ask one of the following questions to get them started thinking. You can ask the others later as patrons check in with you during their scavenger hunt:

  • What sort of insects do you intend/expect to find, and why?
  • Would different seasons affect which insects are found?
  • How many of a particular insect are you finding in the survey area?

Pass out blank paper or printouts of the library / site plan, and have patrons define their "field" site or study area. Encourage patrons to work collaboratively in small groups to identify an area, and then map the building or surroundings. The goal of this is to have a map on either the paper or piece of cardboard provided to share where insects have been found or collected during the next part of the activity.

Bug Scavenger Hunt (45 minutes)

Ask participants to spend the next 15 to 30 minutes exploring the tangible world around them, taking a very close look at their surroundings, in a bug "scavenger hunt!" This exploration can take place either be indoors or outdoors. During this time, they'll be tasked with locating any bug β€”or parts/remnants of bugsβ€”which can be found during the survey, and taking inventory of what they discover along the way. Provide tape, pencils, and markers so that participants may choose what form of "collection" (physical samples, drawings, photos) work best for them while working on the activity.

Upon returning, have participants share what they have found covering the distribution, size, and frequency of their bug findings. Ask participants what they think the data means and if there were signs of insects being present in an area. Was the bug near a window, perhaps trying to escape, or find warmth in the sunlight? Was the bug hidden in a remote corner, building out a habitat or seeking refuge from human inhabitants? Were bugs found near other bugs, or alone?

Sorting Specimens (15 minutes)

A bonus activity can be completed by asking participants to sort which insects they think would be found inside versus outside, and placing both in the intersection of the Venn diagram. Encourage patrons to remix the labels of the Venn Diagram, comparing their findings based on other criteria than habitat (for example based on physical features or behavior!).

Download here β†’

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Safety note: Identify any insects in your area that participants should avoid. Make sure everyone knows what these look like.

Build a Better Bug (30 minutes)

It's time to take what patrons learned from their scavenger hunts and transform it into a speculation of future evolution! For this activity, ask participants to ponder what attributes would make for the "perfect" library insect. Have them draw on the specimen they collected "in the field," and brainstorm which features of those bugs make them suited for life in the library. Ask participants to share their insect perfect library insect as well as the attributes which make it well suited to live in the library. (For this part of the activity, it can be handy to have some book references from your collection that help describe some features/adaptations of insects and arachnids. Here's one online resource to help get your patrons started.)

Discuss what participants see outside, and in their own spaces to draw inspiration.

From there, pass out the insect part template and discuss the following anatomical terms.

Come-Together (20 minutes)

Suggested Timing: 20 minutes (10 min for the activity + 10 min for clean-up & hand-washing)

Once patrons have completed all of the workshop components, it's time to discuss some conclusions about their explorations! Gather around one side of the circulation desk or another table (perhaps using a picnic table or shady area to sit down together as a group, if working outside!). Ask each participant to share something interesting they noticed in the field β€” encouraging them to share their field site surveys and observations with the group. Encourage patrons to continue their hunt for and analysis of bugs in other contexts, like at home, at school, on walks, etc., and report back to you next time they're at the library!

Additional Resources

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