Grad Students Hosted Entomology Outreach Program for Local Youth Center

Chloë Hawkings, right, showing a butterfly to Malik Wilson. Photo by Rob Williams

Chloë Hawkings, right, showing a butterfly to Malik Wilson. Photo by Rob Williams

COLLEGE STATION, Texas–The Department of Entomology’s graduate students hosted an interactive journey in insects and their world during a special outreach event for the youth during North Bryan Community Center’s Summer Camp on July 24, 2017 in the Heep Center.

The program called “Insects and Beyond! An Interactive Introduction to the Wonder-full World of Entomology” provided youths in the program a fun and interactive way to help them learn more about insects and the science of entomology and nature.

During the first section, several of the grad students introduced themselves and told the group their research interests, what labs they worked in, and the types of insects they worked with every day. After the short introductions,

volunteers led several smaller groups to different areas of the second and fourth floors for concurrent sessions focusing on different insect types.

Shavonn Whiten talking to the group

Shavonn Whiten introducing herself to the group. Photo by Rob Williams.

During each rotating session, the youths used stereo and compound microscopes to view insects and had a chance to listen to interactive presentations given by the graduate student volunteers. Some of the insects they viewed included local insects, general arthropods, beneficial and pests. They also saw numerous live insects, viewed the TAMU Insect Collection, and learned fun facts about insect biology.

Ph.D. student and event coordinator Shavonn Whiten said the idea came to her when she was asked to lead the Center’s Summer Camp for this year. While unable to accept the job, Whiten developed and coordinated a summer schedule of weekly interactive events for the kids.

Her desire was to continue the interest she had ignited in the youth through outreach events hosted while serving as a tutor at the center.  Whiten kick-started the summer of events with an interactive entomology presentation and outdoor insect collecting event in late May.

kids looking at insects in collection at the Texas A&M Insect Collection

Masters student Ryan Selking, left, and Assistant Curator Karen Wright, center, visiting with North Bryan Community Center members about the various insects housed in the Texas A&M University Insect Collection

Whiten added that the July 24th program was part of an ongoing set of activities throughout the summer to expose the youth to arts and science fields not traditionally explored by minority youth. She also wanted to help the kids learn more about the field of entomology, as well as give them additional opportunities to continue their educational enrichment during the summer.

“Due to the great results seen from having myself and 14 other African American TAMU graduate students serve as tutors and positive role models for the kids during the 2016-2017 academic year, I didn’t want the learning and growth of the kids to stop when the afterschool tutoring program ended May 24, 2017,” she said.  “I daily saw the pure eagerness and thirst for more knowledge in their eyes, and personally had developed a bond with each of the kids.”

Whiten was very glad to see the youths engaged in what they learned and hopes they will develop a much deeper curiosity into entomology after coming to the program.

“The kids had become my family away from home, and daily remind me why I initially sought to pursue a doctorate degree.  I can easily name the extraordinary individuals who planted and watered the seeds, which prepared and molded me into the individual I am today. It is my duty to do the same for the next generation of leaders.”

Tyler Raszick showing members various insects. Photo by Shavonn Whiten.

Tyler Raszick showing members various insects. Photo by Shavonn Whiten.

“I enjoyed working with Shavonn on this event,” Ph.D. student Chloë Hawkings said. “It was very rewarding to captivate the students with entomology and share my passion.”

“They seemed to really get engaged with the insects and ask a lot of questions about what they were looking at and that made the event special for us,” Ph.D. student and volunteer Karen Poh said. “We love seeing kids, young adults, and adults interact with the insects, learn about entomology, and ask questions. This is a great group of kids who were really interested in insects and I hope they had as much fun learning about insects as we did teaching them.”

Center Co-director, Sandra Robertson, expressed sincere appreciation for the hard work Whiten and fellow grad students did in hosting this event for the kids.

“I think this program has been wonderful,” Robertson said. “It is very nice what the Department did in opening their doors to let the kids come and learn about insects. I am really thankful to Shavonn for taking her time to show and teach them about insects.”

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