Insectapalooza at Sonoma State University
When someone asked the Dalai Lama, “What is the most important thing to teach our children?” he replied, “Teach them to love the insects.”
In Sonoma County, we are fortunate to have an organization that fosters appreciation of the fascinating world of insects. Thousands of Sonoma County students are introduced to insects and their role in nature each year, in presentations provided by the Sonoma State University (SSU) Entomology Outreach Program.
SSU student presenters conduct classroom visits and provide displays for ‘Science Night’ at local schools. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and the collections, microscopes and live insects they bring inspire exploration of the insect world. Presenters have completed the SSU biology department’s annual entomology course, where they have sometimes been surprised to discover their own enthusiasm for insects. How lucky we are that they have also discovered their love of sharing their knowledge!
The Dalai Lama may have been simply encouraging us to value even the smallest of living things, but there are other reasons to learn to love the insects. In addition to their well-known role as pollinators, they serve as decomposers and regulate pest populations. Insects are also critical food for birds, fish, and other animals.
Over 70% of birds, for example, are insectivores; well over 90% feed their young insects. Without insects, scientists tell us, all life on the planet would collapse! The Entomology Outreach Program frames its activities under an overarching theme of watershed stewardship; focusing on aquatic insects and garden allies for lessons. Presentations link human activity in garden to watershed and ecosystem health. School teachers choose from lessons focused on these two themes; lessons are either classroom-based or incorporate on-campus creeks and school gardens.
The university program also provides workshops and lectures for environmental and public agencies, classroom and school garden teachers and the general public. The program coordinator, Frederique Lavoipierre, addresses groups such as the California Native Plant Society, the Audubon Society, and the Science Buzz Café.
Entomology Outreach displays can be viewed at Pepperwood Preserve’s Wildflower Festival, the Hallberg Butterfly Garden Open House and other large public events. A calendar of their public workshops, field trips and presentations is posted on the university Preserves’ website; there are also a number of helpful handouts and lesson plans.
The program staff also produces Insecta-Palooza, an extravaganza of entomological entertainment which serves as the university Field Stations & Nature Preserves’ annual open house.
Insecta-Palooza is the principal fundraiser for the Entomology Outreach Program, which relies on grants, donations and fundraisers for its support. This year’s campaign focuses on sustaining the program staff, and subsidizing the costs of school visits.
The third annual Insecta-Palooza, Saturday October 29, has a theme of Metamorphosis, honoring the 50th anniversary of the university. The event is crafted to appeal to a broad range of ages and interests - budding entomologists, master gardeners, teachers, birders, and the merely curious will all find something to engage their interest.
If you are under 12 years old, admission to Insecta-Palooza is free if you bring a ‘one-breath’ poem about metamorphosis, to be posted in the halls during the event. We can hardly wait to read them!
For more information, visit the SSU Entomology Outreach Program online at www.sonoma.edu/preserves, e-mail Frederique Lavoipierre at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Insecta-Palooza website http://www.sonoma.edu/preserves/insecta-palooza/index.html.