Written by Kiley Gilbert, Bug Camp Assistant Director
If you are one of the folks working in the Plant Sciences Building during the summer, chances are you at least glimpsed the parade of youths toting armfuls of nets, bug houses, water bottles, and various pieces of indeterminate organic matter throughout the halls. If you happened to miss this aforementioned spectacle, perhaps you still overheard powerful and echoing cries along the lines of, “My daddy long legs are fighting!” and “Look! Look at my grasshoppers! This one is named Sir Hoppy Bob. Oh no Sir Hoppy Bob don’t escape!” reverberating through the building. Well, ladies and gentlemen, you can attribute these comical events to campers of the Shultz Lab’s world-renowned Bug Camp 2018: Insects, Science, and Society.
Okay, perhaps it’s not world-renowned, but boy did we attract a wonderful and lovable group of campers. Several attendees were recruited from local schools, many were veteran campers returning for their second or third year, and a handful of out-of-state campers flocked in as well. One camper, who confidently wore a shirt with the words “Ask Me About Entomology” on Day One traveled to us all the way from Wisconsin.
Bug Camp runs two one-week sessions for kids ages 7 to 12. The capacity for each week is 24 campers, an enrollment number that was reached impressively fast. During each session, campers participate in a variety of hands-on and insect related experiential learning opportunities.
This year, campers were welcomed by an opportunity to observe and interact with a wide arrange of insects and other arthropods at the insect zoo. Todd Waterssetup and maintained the Entomology Department’s insect zoo, which was a huge hit. Thanks again, Todd! The zoo consists of various walking sticks, beetles, scorpions, and more with their habitat enclosures stationed around the base camp room (the ENTM Teaching Lab). Campers were able to hold, observe, and even care for some of the various critters. At the end of each day, as parents shuffled in to collect their child, they were given an exhilarating tour around the zoo by their camper. A handful of parents were less than enthused about coming nose-to-nose with the tarantulas and scorpions, but they still managed to put on a brave face and share in their child’s enjoyment.
Campers were deeply immersed in numerous other activities throughout the week. On Day One they were taught how to sweep environments for bugs using nets, a skill they used on subsequent outdoor collecting trips. In addition, they were guided in identifying common insects; engaged in a variety of biocontrol experiments (thanks, Hamby Lab!); splashed and searched for life on aquatic collecting trips (thanks, Lamp Lab!); participated in a bee-utiful trip to the beehives (thanks, vanEnglesdorp’s Lab!) where they examined honeycombs for the queen honey bee, tasted and compared honey, and constructed their own solitary bee houses. When we managed to have downtime at base camp, campers created various bug related crafts (like insect origami!), several of which were given as presents to the counselors. Personally, my growing collection of Bug Camp crafts has given me some of the world’s finest and most unique refrigerator art.
Camper’s positive remarks and feedback throughout the week reassured counselors that the kids were happily engaged in a rewarding and meaningful experience at Bug Camp. Several parents remarked that their camper came home bubbling with excitement and eagerly talking about the day’s adventures. One parent exclaiming, “What a great week! My son came home bursting with information on bugs.” Additionally, many campers and parents expressed their sincere hopes to re-enroll in camp next year before capacity is reached. We genuinely hope they do come back! Registration for Bug Camp 2019 Opens January.
I am doubtful that Bug Camp 2018 could have run any smoother. Camp was incredibly well-organized, well-stocked, and ready to go thanks to Camp Assistant Director Zeke Gonzalez. Zeke worked tirelessly checking and rechecking forms, taking inventory, communicating with parents, and so much more. The prep work for camp began in January and continued daily from that point on. Their ongoing efforts to ensure Bug Camp reached its full potential are evident and exceptional. This was Zeke’s first go at Bug Camp and they knocked it out of the park. Hats off to you! I, Kiley, on the other hand returned for my third year of helping with Bug Camp, but still seemed to have forgotten that I am one of the counselors and not a camper. It’s so easy to get swept up in the excitement of the kids and forget to check the time! I’ll try harder next year, I promise.
All in all, it was another marvelous year of fostering the excitement, appreciation, and knowledge of entomology in today’s youth. Thank you to the many labs, staff members, and of course Dr. Jeff Shultz for making this year one of the best!