An Introduction to Entomology :: Free Online Workshop

When I was teaching in the public school, my favorite unit to teach was entomology.  Now that I homeschool, I have come to realize how much I miss teaching others and exploring our natural world together.  While my children and I actively engage in nature studies regularly, we have not been very consistent in incorporating more in-depth science studies into our curriculum.   I have discovered that I am more accountable when I provide opportunities to our fellow homeschooling community.  For this reason, I have decided to open this course to anyone interested in learning about insects along with us.

I have designed this unit so students will develop an appreciation for the diversity of insects in their local area as well as an understanding of the greater diversity the world over.  Participants will have the opportunity to use an identification or dichotomous key.  The course is open to all ages but the content is geared towards middle level students – parents and families are welcome to join in on the fun.  Any prior knowledge about insects is appreciated but not required.

The unit includes several labs and research assignments in addition to a long-term project. I will communicate weekly whereby I share videos and other media showcasing specific lessons and activities designed to teach insect anatomy, scientific classification, ecology, and inquiry.  I will also provide research suggestions, resources for study, and experiment ideas. 

See the course outline here, Entomology Course Outline

Participants will have the opportunity to participate in class discussions, contribute to data collection as citizen scientists, and do independent research on topics of interest.  Participants in the course are expected to keep a field journal or notebook of their work. Participants are also encouraged to come up with their own project ideas (videos, PowerPoints, art projects, field trips, photography, and more).

This free course will be six weeks in length and is scheduled to begin in May. For those interested in taking part, I ask that you subscribe to the Entomology Online Workshop newsletter via MailChimp.  You can find the subscription link in the right sidebar.  Upon receiving the verification email, you’ll want to click on “manage your preferences” and choose the list topics of interest to you; Entomology Online Workshop is listed as one option. I will then provide the necessary weblinks and/or pass codes required to access the course materials (via GoogleDocs, Flickr, and Project Noah) when the course begins next month.

Participants will have the opportunity to share documents via GoogleDocs, write blog posts (optional), and submit photographs of student work via Flickr.  Participants are also encouraged to collaborate with one another via my classroom on Project Noah.  Parents are expected to partner with younger children to read over and edit student presentations, checking for grammatical errors. Students working independently are asked to use spelling and grammar checks before submitting work. 

Each family or student that will be making home videos (strongly recommended) about class projects and activities should have a family or individual YouTube account. You can either use an already established account or start a new one for the class. Students wanting their own account must be 13 years old. Any videos made for class can then be uploaded to YouTube and the link given to me. Families are responsible for setting up desired privacy settings.

Getting to Know the Millipede

At archery class last week, we moved the hay bales (targets) and to our delight discovered a small group of millipedes who had taken up residence beneath the bales.  Sweetie was quick to make friends and Buddy followed suit behind her.  It gave us a chuckle when we discovered that their instructor, a young many in his late teens/early twenties was too apprehensive to hold one himself.

Millipedes have two pairs of legs on each body segment and are thus sometimes called “1000 legged”.  They have a rounded body and head from which short antennae can be observed.  They vary in length and color.  Most millipedes are herbivores and are found under decaying logs, stones, and leaf litter in moist soils.  They perform a beneficial service to the environment, shredding plant material that has fallen to the ground creating more food for fungi, bacteria, and other small organisms.  Though they have a hard exoskeleton for protection, they will also curl up into a coil when threatened and sometimes secrete a yellowish liquid to deter predators.  

Though they seem unpleasant to some people they are not dangerous.  They do not bite and they perform a valuable service for humans, eating decaying plants and returning the organic matter to the soil.  Because they live in burrows beneath the ground and below decaying logs and leaf litter, they do not use their eyes and prefer dark spaces.  Some scientists believe they may be blind for they will tap the ground as they move forward, much like a blind person will use a cane.  Though their hard exoskeleton provides some protection against predators, they will curl up into a ball when threatened and sometimes secrete a yellowish liquid that can be harmful to some small predators (harmless to humans).

We have seen these fun critters a few times at the High Desert Museum and at a friend’s house when we lived in Central Oregon.  This was the first time we had come across them in the wild ourselves.  They brought smiles to our faces and provided a great opportunity to journal the discovery.