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Monday, August 1, 2011

Cultivating Junior Scientists

This past Friday, a group of children from Children's Discovery Center - a day care in Cheyenne, visited the Berry Center to learn about plants and pollinators.  As you can imagine, we were tickled at the idea of having a bunch of elementary kids interested in learning how the two topics are closely connected, so Dorothy put together a fantastic workshop for them!
Five children from Cheyenne visit the Berry Center to learn about plants and pollinators.  July 29, 2011

Part 1: Berry Center Tour

The kids started out touring the Berry Center to learn what "real-live" biologists and ecologists do.  They visited the Vertebrate Collection, the biodiversity display cases and the "Slow Motion Hurricane" photo exhibit, among other places.

A group of children examine a pocket gopher skull in the Berry Center's Vertebrate Collection.

These children examine patterns in the butterfly wings in the Berry Center's display cabinets.

Dorothy explains the mountain pine beetle and lodgepole pine relationship.  Here she shows the kids what a pitch tube is and looks like.
Part 2: Green Roof Pollinators

Dorothy took the group out to the green roof to explain why we planted what we did and how our native plants can help support our native pollinators.  The children then sat quietly for ten minutes watching for pollinators to land on flowers so they could determine what kind and how many insects are visiting the plants.

Dorothy describes the process of pollination.  To get a better look at the reproductive parts of a plant, the kids use magnifying glasses.
The group watches for pollinators to land on the sunflowers and gaillardia.  While these potted plants are not native to the Laramie Basin, they're useful tools for teaching children about insects and plant relationships.

Part 3: A Closer Look at Native Pollinators

Next, the group moved to Simpson Plaza on the UW campus to see insects close up.  They were given insect nets and taught how to sweep plants to safely catch pollinators.  Bombus, the genus of the native bumble bee, was a popular catch and "I caught a bombus!!" was the day's most frequently used phrase.

Kyle (right) explains how to sweep a net to catch an insect.

Each of the children caught an insect to put in an insect box for closer inspection and identification.  Once the insects were identified, they were released to pollinate more plants.

Part 4: Insect Museum

The children then moved to the last stop: UW's Insect Museum and Gallery, where they could witness the variety of insect species in Wyoming and beyond.  They even got to touch a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach!

Guinevere Jones, PhD student in Ecology, helps students identify insects and describes some of their characteristics and lifestyles.

Guinevere pulled out a hissing cockroach for the children to touch and hold.  Most were content just petting it.

This little scientist wanted to hold the cockroach, and exclaimed "The bottom feels like a turtle shell!!"

If you'd like your child's class to visit the Berry Center, suggest the teacher contact the Berry Center to set up a day and time.  We'd love to have more little scientists to come through!

Written by Brenna Wanous, Berry Center

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