Editor’s note: With Virginia Tech Giving Day 2022 beginning at noon, Feb. 23, a series of stories highlighting the impact of donations are featured on VTx this month.

This past year, with Hokie BugFest being held virtually for the second year in a row, Hokie BugFest on the Go was created to provide an in-person entomology experience to area schoolchildren.

Students were introduced to the science of entomology where they learned about insect and arthropod biology, the importance of insects to humans and the environment, and potential careers in entomology. The program consisted of a traveling field trip where live arthropods were brought into the classroom for a one-hour, hands-on, interactive session.  

Hokie BugFest on the Go visited 11 local schools in Floyd and Montgomery counties, 45 classes, and more than 750 students and 60 teachers or administrators. The experience for the local schoolchildren was made possible through funds donated to the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences during Virginia Tech’s 2021 Giving Day.

“It was really gratifying and fun to be able to interact with the kids,” said Daniel Frank, director of Pesticide Programs in the Department of Entomology. “They were very thoughtful and inquisitive, and I was impressed with how much interest they showed.”

At Floyd Elementary School, students hadn’t been on a field trip since early spring 2020.

“The kids were extremely excited to have this opportunity,” said Anne Esterhuizen, a fourth-grade teacher at the school. “Getting to see all of the insects in person was a huge game-changer for these kids. Getting to see other adults from the ‘real-world’ with jobs that they may not have ever heard of before really helped to broaden their ideas about what careers are out there.”

Hokie BugFest on the Go started with a brief introduction to the world of entomology before the children rotated through stations for a close-up look at live specimens.

A hissing cockroach, a favorite of the kids, gets gently passed to another student.

A hissing cockroach, a favorite of the kids, gets gently passed to another student.
A hissing cockroach, a favorite of the kids', gets gently passed to another student.

“I remember one child in particular, who despite his reservations, wanted to hold a hissing cockroach so badly,” said Stephanie Blevins-Wycoff, a Virginia Cooperative Extension associate who works with pesticide safety education. “I assured him the cockroach would not hurt him as he reached out his hands. The look on his face was priceless as he felt the insect moving around in the palm of his hands, but he remained calm, and even became more comfortable with the cockroach as time went on.”

Holding the insects was popular among the kids, with 9-year-olds, Riley and William, saying it was their favorite part of the experience.

One of the arthropods at the event was a scorpion that glowed when under ultraviolet light – which was Riley’s favorite by far. William’s favorite insects were a little blue beetle and a tarantula because of how active they were.

“The students still talk about BugFest,” Esterhuizen said. “It was such an incredible experience that had an enormous impact on them. We are so grateful for it.”

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