Department Helps with Annual 4-H Roundup

    Extension Program Specialist Erfan Vafaie judging a contestant's insect collection. Photo by Rob Williams

Extension Program Specialist Erfan Vafaie judging a contestant’s insect collection. Photo by Rob Williams

COLLEGE STATION, Texas–The Heep Center on the Texas A&M Campus was alive this summer with youth, parents, and sponsors attending the annual 4-H Roundup Entomology Contests from all over Texas.

The annual event, which is hosted on the Texas A&M Campus, is a qualifying invitational event that is held for youth between 11 and 18 that have already successfully qualified by participating at the district or regional level or registered to compete in an invitational event at the state level.

The Department held two contests during the three day event which included an insect collection exhibition and judging held on Tuesday.  Wednesday was dedicated to an insect identification contest where contestants took a written test and an insect identification exam. Collections were displayed at Reed Arena Concourse throughout the day on Wednesday for participants of the event.

During the insect collection judging, volunteers spent a few hours Tuesday morning looking over a total of 12 collections submitted from participants statewide. The collections were judged on different criteria including diversity of insects, and appearance.

During the Wednesday portion of Round Up, participants then are invited to hear presentations from Department Head Dr. David Ragsdale, as well as various other Extension employees about the Department and Extension. After the orientation, they were then sent to the second floor to begin the insect identification contest.

Bryant McDowell, left , Xanthe Shirley, and Ben Diehl sharing their experiences during the afternoon session.

Bryant McDowell, left , Xanthe Shirley, and Ben Diehl sharing their experiences during the afternoon session. Photo by Rob Williams.

The contest ended with a special awards ceremony in the afternoon.

Several Entomology students, staff and Extension personnel spent time helping with the collection contest and grading of participants’ insect identification answer sheets throughout the two-day period.

Grad student Xanthe Shirley said she loved volunteering and seeing all the collections that were there at the judging.

“I am happy I was able to volunteer,” she said. “There are a lot of good collections here today and good diversity. I’m so glad to be a part of this.”

Professor and Extension specialist Robert Puckett also was reviewing collections and said the most interesting arthropod he has seen in the collection was seeing a sun spider that was collected by one student.

“I thought it was very cool,” he said.

Extension Program Specialist Erfan Vafaie was very impressed with the vast array of diverse insects that one student had done on the project.

Bill Ree and Jakalynne Gosnell judging contestants' collections. Photo by Rob Williams.

Bill Ree and Jakalynne Gosnell judging contestants’ collections. Photo by Rob Williams

“These are so great and the kids did a great job with their collections,” he said. “There is a lot of diversity and they were nicely pinned.”

Associate Department Head for Extension Programs Dr. Charles Allen said that the entomology contests are helpful in encouraging students to learn science by learning about entomology and biodiversity of insects through the collections and the identification contests.

“The 4-H Entomology Contest and Collection Contest encourages young people to learn, develop interest and curiosity about insects and science, and develop life skills in focusing on achieving goals,” Allen said. “We hope these young people will have fun learning and developing an interest in science and the world around them. These experiences can be life changing as they can lead to a life-long interest or a career in entomology.”

Extension Program Specialist and insect collection contest supervisor Molly Keck was very impressed by this year’s high quality collections that were submitted by members.

“All of the collections were amazing and the kids did an awesome job,” Keck said.

She also said that the collection contest is a great tool in learning good organization and presentation skills, as well as learning the various insect orders, which helps them when identifying insects during the insect identification contest.

“I think the collections are a great tool for them to learn entomology and science in a different and fun way,” she said.

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