A Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers eventTwo weeks ago, the Smithsonian museums and research facilities were filled with the sights and sounds of adults mimicking insect mating calls, hunting for organisms in brackish water, and allowing African Giant Millipedes to scurry across their willing hands. These adults were participants in the Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers (SSEATS), week-long events focusing on the professional development of science educators. Emphasis is placed on inquiry-based teaching to facilitate effective learning in the sciences. Throughout the week, 20 teachers from all across the country gained a behind-the-scenes look at exhibits within the Smithsonian, participated in hands-on presentations with various scientists, and hiked through the historic Java Trail—land which has been used by Native Americans, colonists, and dairy farmers—all the while discovering creative ways to incorporate the overall theme of biodiversity into their classrooms.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of different species within a region, and while the week included a look at creatures local to Washington, DC, the teachers were also given creative ideas and resources for completing similar tasks within their own cities. EntomologistsNate Erwin, who was with the Smithsonian for 20 years and is currently a freelance biologist, and Gary Hevel, who has been with the Institution for 45 years, spent the day sharing their love of bugs. The participants were given a look into Gary’s 25-drawer project, a collection of over 4,000 different species obtained from his backyard over a period of four years. His collection included a golden bug hypothesized to be the star of an Edgar Allen Poe short story, a Sunset moth considered by most to be the prettiest of all the butterflies, and the largest beetle in the Eastern USA—aptly named the Hercules beetle. He concluded his tour by encouraging the group and the public to go out, collect, record, and illustrate. “There’s so many darn things out there!”
Entomologist, Gary Hevel, displaying the beauty of the Sunset Moth.