Big Stick Insect Giveaway

Published: 05 June 2019

If you missed the excitement of hearing about this latest AES escapade, it involved an unexpected opportunity to offer 10,000 UK primary schools the chance to receive stick insect eggs! Whilst we experienced a few palpitations when it came to sourcing eggs and fulfilling requests, this was an opportunity that was too good to miss. For one thing, the sheer scale of publicity for our society, in particular the Bug Club, among primary schools is immense. And a not insignificant consideration is that the entire operation is cost neutral to the society. (In the unlikely event that you can think of any other project that would fulfil these two criteria, let us know!)

But what is so good about providing eggs of alien insect species to primary schools? We think that the primary benefit (no pun intended) is that what will hatch from these eggs are real insects, with which children can interact directly. School children are able to obtain information about the natural world in other ways, of course; but as Edgar Dale proposed in the 1960s, we tend to remember and understand only about 10% of what we read and 30% of what we see, but 80% of what we personally experience (Anderson). This is especially important in the case of schools in inner cities, some of whose pupils may have had little opportunity to interact positively with the natural world, an aspect that many teachers who've responded to the offer have commented on.

This personal experience of insects is an essential feature of the Bug Club, and indeed of any meaningful endeavour to engage young people with natural history. Attend any Bug Club event and you will find youngsters who are far keener to sally forth with nets and pots, to discuss the ants, flies and beetles they find with each other, and to draw them or to make a collection, than to listen to someone lecturing them on the subject, or showing them photos, or 'specimens they caught earlier'. To paraphrase an old saying, give a child an insect to look at and they will be interested for a while; teach them to find and study their own insects, and they will have an interest for a lifetime.

Finally, we are very grateful to Stewart McPherson and the Don Hanson Charitable Foundation for the phasmid opportunity mentioned above, and to the wonderful Phasmid Study Group many of whose members have donated phasmid eggs free of charge for this project.

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