By Michigan Science Center STEAM Activator Amanda Murray
My name is Amanda and I love bugs. I have had a passion for all things creepy crawly since I was a young child and it has never waned. In fact, in my Master’s program, I studied wasps for five years. Needless to say, I think arthropods are amazing, and also a very important learning tool for all ages, but especially kids.
My favorite thing to do at the science center is introduce kids to our bugs, especially the hissing cockroaches. Of course when people first come in to the room, the first reaction I get is “ewww gross … I’m not going near that!” This is particularly common in young girls, especially ones that see their mother grossing out. However, once they see me (another girl) holding the cockroaches and thinking they’re beautiful, I start to get a different reaction. Slowly, the kids start to see the bugs in a different light. By the end of the interaction, I have many of them holding the cockroach, thinking it’s “cute” and wanting to take one home.
I think it is really important to show young kids, especially girls, that bugs are more than “gross” and it’s not just a thing for boys to be interested in. Many times, girls look to their female caregivers and are discouraged to pursue an interest in insects or spiders because it’s “dirty” or “not a thing for girls to do.” My mother, who hates spiders, never discouraged me from liking them. She never told me it was not a girl thing – she supported me. Girls should be able to have models to see that bugs are amazing and it’s not “just a boy thing.”
Introducing kids to bugs also shows them empathy. Instead of stomping on the ant hill, how about looking at what the ants are doing. Where are they going? How do they live? Many times, people just overlook the life around them every day. I believe by coming to a place that lets them see bugs up close and learn about their life can make people have a whole new respect for them. This is particularly important in young kids because it can introduce them to a whole new way of thinking. Insects are not only beautiful, but they also can be engineers or have complex social lives. Looking at how insects build their homes or even how a colony interacts with one another can be related to many things in the human world.
Amanda and the Michigan Science Center are excited to announce our newest exhibit, Bug Quest, opening May 14! Appealing to both bug and non-bug fans, Bug Quest will send guests on an adventure to uncover the science behind these fascinating creatures.