November 5, 2010

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Fourth-graders at Muhlenberg South Elementary School grabbed their nets and searched for crickets, beetles and other insects outside their school during the annual Bugging Out Day.

"The fourth-graders get a couple of things out of this," said Blake Newton, extension entomology specialist for 4H Youth development in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "For one, we want people to be comfortable going outside without being afraid of bugs. So we try to show the kids which bugs are dangerous and which bugs are not dangerous. Another goal is to get the kids involved in 4-H and science, and this project does both."

The idea for Bugging Out Day came from an in-service Newton offered to 4-H program assistants. Muhlenberg County's Judy McGehee attended that in-service and talked to Newton about how an entomology program could work in the county's schools. 2009 was the first year the program was offered at Muhlenberg South Elementary. Newton said other schools across the state have similar programs, but Bugging Out Day is unique to Muhlenberg County.

Fourth-grade teacher Sherri Day said the program reinforces the concepts the students learned in their insect unit and helps them prepare for testing. It also gives them the opportunity to get outside and develop an appreciation for their natural environment and science.

In the morning session of Bugging Out Day, Newton talked to the students about insect orders and identification as well as how to catch insects and prepare a 4-H bug box. McGehee showed the students photos from the past year's program and then explained how common insects are in everyday life, including as ingredients in popular foods and drinks.

In the afternoon, the students had the opportunity to jumpstart a bug collection as they caught insects on the school grounds.

"This is really what sells it for some of the kids," McGehee said. "We can do a lot of things in the classroom with them, but when you get them out here catching bugs and getting excited, they're more apt to go home and start a collection."

The Bugging Out Day is already proving to be successful in sparking students' interest in entomology. In 2009, a fourth-grader began her bug box that day. Over time, she collected enough insects to enter it as a 4-H entomology project in the county fair. She won the county fair and placed second at the Kentucky State Fair.

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