What if we work in the classroom with insects, arachnids, etc., better known to children as bugs? It is very interesting to work with arthropods as an animal model due to the high diversity of anatomical models that they present and because of the ease of observing them both in the classroom and in their environment.
Insects are excellent teaching tools: they allow the development of skills of research work. The students thus approach, in the first person, the scientific work, a transversal content that is worked on at all educational levels.
Science has different ways of explaining the natural world, and peering into it in a practical way contributes to critical thinking skills. In addition, attitudes such as care and respect towards these small animals are also worked on, as well as the need for their conservation due to the importance they have in ecosystems.
More than insects
The word entomology comes from the Greek entomon –insect– and lógos –treated–, which would be equivalent to “the science that studies insects”. But in reality, this discipline encompasses the study of all arthropods: it includes other groups such as arachnids, myriapods and crustaceans, as well as insects.
Arthropods are invertebrate animals that have an external skeleton called the exoskeleton. Its body is made up of several hardened segments that are grouped into 2 or 3 different parts depending on the group. The head can have antennae (1 or 2 pairs) or not and eyes that can be simple or compound. But what defines arthropods is that they have articulated legs, the number of which is also variable according to the group (the word comes from the Greek árthron –articulation– and poús –foot–). The great diversity of media colonized by arthropods, together with their different ways of life, determine a great variability of anatomical models.
We live with insects
Today, we live in a society far from the natural environment, which makes it difficult to understand it and its components. To fill this gap, it is essential to work in the classroom with real organisms, providing opportunities for students to observe them for themselves and thus increase their interest and motivation.
Carrying out activities of this type in the classroom we awaken in children that innate curiosity that they possess and that teachers should always encourage. The use of didactic sequences based on contextualized situations in which direct observation prevails is crucial to improve understanding of the natural environment. This understanding is done through meaningful and transferable learning that helps to recognize the need to protect the environment and conserve biological diversity.
Claiming the bugs
Invertebrate animals and, more specifically, the group of arthropods, do not usually arouse, a priori, a great attraction. Insects, despite being the largest and most diverse group of animals on the planet, are hardly approached in the classroom. Teachers, especially at nursery and primary levels, may have a feeling of rejection towards these animals, a factor that is essential so that they do not introduce activities related to insects in their classroom programs, and if they do so with other animals that they consider more friendly.
But working with animals close to the students elicits a higher degree of motivation and interest. Among other things, the study of these small animals offers the possibility of understanding their life cycle in a simple way, introducing the concept of metamorphosis through the observation of their different stages, as in the “ Sponsor a Queen ” project. In addition, since some arthropods have an interest in Public Health due to their role in the transmission of diseases, research activities can be designed in which students participate to increase the knowledge of the scientific community through citizen science, as in the project ” Flebocollect ” .
Therefore, it is essential that teachers put aside their indifference or animosity towards this animal group. By incorporating arthropods into educational programs and increasing contact with this group of animals, the development of scientific skills is favored and allows a change in the attitudes of schoolchildren towards these small animals. As the saying goes: “What is not learned in youth, is poorly understood in old age.”
A pioneering project
The Autonomous University of Madrid, through its foundation, has signed with Insectalia, a company dedicated to the breeding of insects, a collaboration agreement to develop an educational project that brings insects to the classrooms of infant, primary, secondary and high school education . The UAM – Insectalia agreementcalled ‘The use of arthropods as an experimental learning strategy’, consists of the installation of different species of insects in the classrooms and the development of activities aimed at deepening the knowledge of the world of insects and respect for the environment. The objective of this project is to provide original didactic material, as well as the appropriate methodological guidelines to implement activities related to arthropods and adaptable to all educational levels.
It is good news that educational projects are being developed based on the incorporation of arthropods as an educational resource. These projects can show this animal group more closely to children and adolescents, a strategy that allows enriching the way of teaching and learning in the classroom from a comprehensive perspective.
Author Bio: Rosa Galvez Esteban is Assistant Professor Doctor in the Department of Specific Didactics at the Autonomous University of Madrid