Entomologist Dr. Art Evans shares with WCVE producer Steve Clark the critical role that teachers played in his professional development as an entomologist and university professor.
SC: I'm Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You.
AE: Do you know what today is?
AE: (laughing) It is Tuesday, but it's also National Teacher Day.
SC: Happy Teacher Day!
AE: Absolutely. I want to give a shout out to all those teachers out there, and I want to acknowledge the role that teachers have played in my life, in becoming an entomologist and a teacher too.
SC: So who was perhaps the earliest one that moved you in that direction?
AE: Well, I had some good science teachers in elementary school, but I have to admit that probably the most two influential teachers I've had my life were my high school biology teachers, Mr. Brister and Mr. Handlen. They taught a summer school course called Field Biology, and to this day it is the best course I've ever taken, either in high school or at the university level.
SC: What made it that way?
AE: We got outdoors. (laughing) We had two local field trips every week, and we also had one overnight field trip.
AE: This is in southern California. We would camp up in the mountains, we'd drive down to San Diego, we'd visit museums. We'd go out and make collections. We had to make an insect collection. We had to make a shell collection. We had to develop study skins using birds and reptiles and mammals. We did vegetation mapping. This was all in high school.
SC: It’s amazing.
AE: It was an incredible course, and . . .
SC: What a luxury of education!
AE: Yes, yes. It just shows the importance of exposing students to nature. You know, a few years ago I taught a course for teachers at VCU on how to incorporate insects into the classroom. We made a collection. I gave them a mini entomology course. We looked at the impact of insects on science and art and technology and popular culture as ways of bringing insects into the classroom. And I'm always about encouraging teachers to do just that. They can plan a native plant garden on the school yard to attract insects. And even if you just have a few minutes to get out there and see caterpillars munching away or bees pollinating or beetles mating or all the other insect things that go on, these are the things that really excite students and help set them up for a life of curiosity and learning.
SC: And just getting out of the classroom is a benefit.
AE: Yes, it is, and I realize it's difficult. Not all schools have the luxury of being near a park or having expansive school grounds for gardens, but you can also bring insects into the classroom. Having caterpillars, monarch caterpillars are popular in schools, providing them with fresh milkweed, watching them develop and pupate, and seeing the adults emerge, and then releasing them into the wild. Bess beetles, there are all kinds of local insects that do very well in captivity here, and you can just keep them for a short period of time and then release them where you found them once the semester is over.
SC: Well, teacher Art Evans, a Happy Teacher’s Day and Happy Teacher’s Week!
AE: That's right. We appreciate all of you. Thank you for your work.
SC: Dr. Art Evans is a Research Associate at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. You’ll find photos, audio, and links to the museum and Art’s Facebook page and a list of the places that he teaches at ideastations.org/radio/bugs. (music playing)