Stillwater News Press

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July 22, 2012

Children get buggy at Oklahoma State University Botanic Garden workshop

STILLWATER, Okla. — Armed with nets and knowledge, children took to catching bugs during an insect collection workshop that started Saturday.

“What’s the Buzz About Bugs” is a four-part activity sponsored by the Oklahoma State University Botanic Garden. The garden is partnering up with OSU Insect Adventure for the program. Director of OSU Insect Adventure Andrine Shufran instructed the kids.

“We’re leading kids on an adventure around the garden to learn to collect insects, to learn to make an insect collection and to pin and label insects so they’ll be able to do state fair and 4-H collections,” Shufran said.

This is the first time the two OSU entities have worked together for an event like this, she said.

“It’s wonderful to partner with the Botanic Garden because the facility is so pretty and there are so many bugs here,” Shufran said.

A group of children, ages 6 to 14, were given nets and helped collect the bugs.

“I really like watching kids interact with the animals and the plants at the garden,” Shufran said. “They really discover life, a lot of times, for the first time.”

The four-part series continues Aug. 18 where participants will learn to pin insects, Sept. 15 where they will learn to label and spread butterfly wings and Oct. 6 when the Botanic Garden hosts its GardenFest celebration and invites everyone to bring back their collections to be judged and awarded prizes.

Shufran said the reason this program works is because kids and bugs go together.

“Kids are small. Bugs are small. They like to get outside and explore,” Shufran said. “Most people don’t have any idea how much life there is and how many bugs are out here. So, watching the kids actually discover that and learn and explore is very exciting and watching their faces light up. We have a really good time watching them, for the first time, catch that butterfly or understanding that these are not deadly and watching them kind of open up to nature.”

OSU Insect Adventure is a well-kept secret, Shufran said. Many don’t know about the program’s facility next to the OSU Botanic Garden.

“We actually have 75 different species of bugs that people can come and touch and  hold and ask questions about,” Shufran said. “We have an indoor observational beehive.”

The group does approximately 200 presentations a year across the state.

Bailey Lawson, 14, was in Saturday’s group, but started collecting bugs at age 10. She has also participated with Insect Adventure before.

“I like that I get to learn about different insects and catch cool butterflies and grasshoppers, spiders and all that,” Lawson said.

Her biggest catch was a monarch butterfly her first year. However, there are some small dangers to collecting, she said. One method of collecting is with a plastic bag.

“I caught a wasp and I was looking at it like that and it stung me,” Lawson said.

Shufran said that happens, but can be beneficial in many ways.

“We’ve had kids be really surprised at how much it does not hurt and how scary bugs are not,” Shufran said. “When they’ve been brought up in that climate of fear, to see it fall away is fun.”

While most kids are hesitant at first, the program grows on them fast.

“They become crazy about collecting bugs, but they always want to go back outside and collect more bugs and learn more things,” Shufran said.

Many children will ask if they have a special bug or want to know more about their catches.

“Insects are the largest group of animals on the planet bar none,” Shufran said. “They outnumber humans a billion and a half to one, so understanding and accepting insects and maybe even appreciating them, will help people throughout their lives to enjoy nature and to understand the importance of this group of animals, as well as just to not be afraid of the outdoors and enjoy that more when they go outside and explore.”

That lesson was certainly not lost on Lawson.

“It’s really fun and I encourage everyone to come and try it,” Lawson said.

Classes are open to all ages. The cost is $15 for members of the OSU Botanic Garden and $20 for nonmembers. Classes take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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