Youth get ‘buzz’ on bugs at Insect Expo

More than 1,000 fourth-graders from New Braunfels and Comal, Texas, independent school districts attended a recent two-day Insect Expo at the McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels.

“This event was presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in collaboration with these school districts and volunteer organizations,” said Wizzie Brown, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Travis County. “We had more than 20 stations with fun and educational activities related to insects and entomology.”

More than 80 volunteers from Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs in Comal, Bexar, Guadalupe, Hays and Travis counties assisted with the program.

Booths and displays for the Insect Expo were set up inside and outside the museum building. AgriLife Extension personnel and volunteers introduced students to insect life cycles, pollinators, beneficial and non-beneficial insects, forensic entomology, “natural” recycling, beekeeping, camouflage insects, aquatic insects, entomophagy and more.

There was an insect “petting zoo” where students could touch insects, a cockroach race where they could cheer for their favorite bug and even a station where they could sample insect-based foods. Other activities included insect crime scene investigation, maggot art and a build-your-own insect crafting area.

“This is the way education should be,” said Tina Kalebick, a teacher at County Line Elementary in New Braunfels for the past 10 years. “Children learn so much more when they are engaged in hands-on activities. Here they get a chance to see, touch and taste. It’s a great way for them to apply what they have learned in class in a more real-world setting.”

Paxtyn Cochran, a fourth-grader at Seele Elementary School in New Braunfels and a Gruene Kountry 4-H member, was among the attendees.

“I love bugs,” Cochran said. “I’m not afraid of them or of touching them. One of my favorite things here was the insect petting zoo, where you could touch the insects and find out how they feel. Another of my favorite things has been learning about new and different bugs.”