Kids and Bugs - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 07-06-2011, 12:33 AM
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(Not sure if this is the right forum, but it seemed good enough. Please move if there's a more appropriate place.)


My little guy is just barely a toddler now, but I've been thinking a lot lately about kids and their fascination with bugs. Also about the public school system and their science chapters on metamorphosis.

I remember as a kid building elaborate bug "houses" with my sister out of sticks and see-through plastic so that we could catch bugs and watch them walk around and do whatever it is that bugs do. Of catching fireflies in jars with holes poked in their lids so we could watch them glow. Of putting caterpillars in empty butter containers (again, with holes poked in their lids and sides) and seeing if they would eat the grass or flowers that we placed in there with them.

Granted, we would put the bugs back in nature after a while, but is this a good thing to allow with kids? Is it just part of regular childhood exploration, or should we - as animal rights advocates - teach our kids to leave all animals and bugs in their natural environment and just observe them as-is?

I don't remember it from my *own* elementary school days, but the school where I work makes a yearly lesson plan out of starting off with caterpillars and keeping them in the classroom until they emerge from their cocoons. Then they take them outside and release them... unintentionally but inevitably injuring a few of them in the process from collecting them inside the classroom to the outdoor release among 25+ excited kids crowded around the teachers. The newly emerged butterflies are usually weak, of course, and some don't get much further than the playground... where kids unaware of the release accidentally step on them.

Up-close-and-personal metamorphosis observation - "harmless" educational experience or unnecessary lesson that could be taught/learned just as well by watching a video clip?
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#2 Old 07-07-2011, 11:44 PM
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(I posted this in a different VB forum but didn't get any "nibbles". So...)


My little guy is just barely a toddler now, but I've been thinking a lot lately about kids and their fascination with bugs. Also about the public school system and their science chapters on metamorphosis.

I remember as a kid building elaborate bug "houses" with my sister out of sticks and see-through plastic so that we could catch bugs and watch them walk around and do whatever it is that bugs do. Of catching fireflies in jars with holes poked in their lids so we could watch them glow. Of putting caterpillars in empty butter containers (again, with holes poked in their lids and sides) and seeing if they would eat the grass or flowers that we placed in there with them.

Granted, we would put the bugs back in nature after a while, but is this a good thing to allow with kids? Is it just part of regular childhood exploration, or should we - as animal rights advocates - teach our kids to leave all animals and bugs in their natural environment and just observe them as-is?

I don't remember it from my *own* elementary school days, but the school where I work makes a yearly lesson plan out of starting off with caterpillars and keeping them in the classroom until they emerge from their cocoons. Then they take them outside and release them... unintentionally but inevitably injuring a few of them in the process from collecting them inside the classroom to the outdoor release among 25+ excited kids crowded around the teachers. The newly emerged butterflies are usually weak, of course, and some don't get much further than the playground... where kids unaware of the release accidentally step on them.

Do you think this "up-close-and-personal metamorphosis observation" is just a "harmless" educational experience or an unnecessary lesson that could be taught/learned just as well by reading a book or watching a video clip?
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#3 Old 07-08-2011, 06:45 AM
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That's a tough question for me to answer because I did the same thing as a kid and I liked learning that kind of thing. And of course I would never intentionally harm any bugs in the process, although I do think it's inevitable that some bugs do get harmed in the process. And I ended up very much pro-AR. I was not the type of kid to go out and squash bugs just for kicks. I was happy to leave them alone in their natural settings.

I think it's probably like dissection...if you can teach on computers and from books instead of from the actual animals, so much the better.

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#4 Old 07-08-2011, 06:28 PM
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I'm not a parent, but I'm a grown-up kid who's father had this same dilemma.

Even after a bug, or other small critter is released back into nature, many do still die from stress or injuries you may not have noticed. You can slightly damage an insect's ability to breath properly through their sides, damage their ability to smell food, mate, etc...

However, especially with children growing up, you have to see it and touch it in order to learn about it, like it, and appreciate it. That's how it was for me. I fell in love with animals and nature through my own two little hands... but I killed so many little critters in the process in doing so when he wasn't looking. You are not always going to be watching your child 24/7.

The ones I didn't accidentally kill survived me because my father took the time to show me how to hold a particular critter, and also explained you can only hang onto it a short time because the heat from your hands is too much for it. Those critters I killed I was rather naive about, and thought they would do just fine chillin' in one of my Dad's old beer bottles so I could show my Mom when she got home.

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#5 Old 07-08-2011, 07:57 PM
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I used to be very obsessed with bugs. I surely accidentally caused many deaths, but my obsession with helping and studying them caused me to develop into the person I am today - which means, I now take extremely extra care not to hurt the animals. As I'm typing this, there's a little fruit fly on my screen, wandering around and checking it out. :3 Cute little guy.

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#6 Old 07-08-2011, 08:08 PM
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it's natural innocent curiosity and i say let the kids explore and house and examine all the bugs they like.
as long as there's no sadistic maiming involved...ie pulling off legs/wings or burning thereof.

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#7 Old 07-08-2011, 08:12 PM
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Aaand now I have a very large housefly watching me from a lamp. He's very mellow, just hanging out and cleaning his wings.

I think if people watched insects more often, they'd like them a lot better than they do.

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#8 Old 07-08-2011, 10:35 PM
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I had to merge the two threads.

PLEASE do not cross-post duplicate threads in multiple forums.

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#9 Old 07-09-2011, 07:12 AM
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I have a toddler. He likes to watch bugs and sometimes tries to eat them! He has a little toy bug set with plastic bugs that I prefer he plays with. I teach him "gentle" with ladybugs just like with cats and dogs, but I know there will be times he won't be gentle. Some bugs will die. That's just a fact of life.

As far as classrooms go, I won't mount a protest against the school if they have bugs in the classroom, but I do see a trend towards fewer and fewer nonhuman animals as classroom pets/experiments. Some teachers I know say they're no longer allowed to have mammals or birds in the classrooms. I think that was due to a variety of reasons: some kids have allergies, animals escape and cause trouble, janitors didn't like cleaning things up, a few kids were abusive, etc. I expect there will be fewer ant farms and butterflies in classrooms in the future.

When I was a kid we didn't do any of those things in my classrooms. (I'll admit to some accidental animal abuse on my own time, but not in the classroom.) Instead we went on field trips and saw animals in their natural spaces or at animal sanctuaries. I had lots of progressive teachers and my mom was involved in animal rights and we were vegetarian. Only a few times were there issues - trips to the zoo, dissection, etc. My mom just explained our values and the teachers usually accommodated me. I hope other kids get that experience.
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#10 Old 07-09-2011, 12:00 PM
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I was an avid bug collector when I was a kid. My dad made me a glass ant farm, and I would go and dig up an ant hill and fill it up and watch them make it their home. It was really cool to see the tunnels through the glass. Of course, they always all died within a few days, or escaped. I don't think it's necessary to do this for kids to learn, as stated above there is the internet which is a much better tool for delving into the lives of bugs. At the same time though, I do think I leaned something, and I was never doing harm on purpose. For my son (He's almost 2) I will let him watch the bugs outside, and touch and play with them, being gentle all the time, but I won't make farms like I had, where they will suffer an inevitable death. I think where I'm going with this, is that as long as we are not intentionally causing them any pain or suffering, have fun and learn lots
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#11 Old 07-17-2011, 06:32 PM
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The caterpillar thing reminds me of when I was young, like 7 or something. I'd found a caterpillar somewhere and I loved the damn thing, but stupidly I put it on the floor behind my child-sized car thingy (basically a four wheel bike with a roof). I turned around and couldn't see it, then moved my little car thing out of the way to see that it was squashed. Sad little me stood there feeling kinda bad about it.

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#12 Old 08-08-2011, 05:11 AM
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Honestly, I'm torn because I wouldn't want any animals to come to harm either, but I was really into bugs/ frogs/ toads/ snakes/ salamanders, etc when I was small. I know I did injure a few inadvertently- and it's a hard lesson to learn as a kid, but an even harder for the animal to endure.

I am the person I am today, vegetarian and very peaceful because as a child I was allowed, encouraged and borderline obsessed with the animal life I encountered. For the most part I watched them and interacted for a while and returned them to their natural settings, but I think If I had just observed them in nature without interacting with them I would never have developed the compassion and interest I have in nature- I think I needed to experience holding the animal, watching it's reaction to me, it's actions, feeling in the case of small reptiles, amphibians and the like their little hearts beating, just seeing their uniqueness and to experience they are just as alive and aware as myself. I learned to appreciate them as individuals which is a huge part of growing to respect animal life I believe. I could(more on this later) identify 15 toads from our yard specifically based on their markings and the pattern of their "warts".

At the same time there are LOADS of things I would do differently while teaching my own child. I think if my child wanted to do as I did one summer, and keep a terrarium of toads to observe for a month or so, I would teach my child how to build a very appropriate environment- probably make it into a real project for them and build it from scratch, create a natural living space for them, harvest or purchase food for them so that they would benefit from being observed with great stores of fat in time for fall and I would explain all of this to them. My parents on the other hand, knowing I was gentle let me keep them in a big rubber maid tote without a top with some ground and rocks but nothing spectacular for sure and definitely not a great place to keep 15 toads for a summer, though luckily I was vigilant enough not to harm any and none died and I was able to release them all later into the yard.
If my child showed and interest in ladybugs we would research them completely and perhaps build a small temporary shelter for them to observe overnight.

I think it's important for children to experience other creatures on their terms because someday, as I did, they will begin to see that animals become stressed from capture, and they get scared and perhaps observation, or just holding the creature for a moment then releasing them back to where they came from is the most humane choice. You can read all the textbooks in the world about an animal but for me until you experience that creature one on one there is no real connection.

I think a great compromise is education, brief observation and extremely supervised longer term observation and then plenty of contact with domestic companion animals of many varieties is the best way to cultivate the understanding and passion for animals.

I think a butterfly project would be OK in classroom as long as the children were not allowed to touch the (proper and comfortable) enclosure, educated greatly and then the (environmentally appropriate) butterflies were allowed to strengthen and acclimatize and a short field trip was taken to release them in a field or a wooded area away from prying hands.

just MHO..... Definitely not an expert or the gospel, lol.
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#13 Old 08-08-2011, 07:35 AM
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My son loves bugs. He points them out to me in the house- ants, flies, etc.
My husband kills them despite me handing him a cup and piece of paper and protesting. My son sees that.
So when he points out a bug he waves goodbye to it. Makes me sad!

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#14 Old 08-13-2011, 02:19 PM
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I work in a daycare and deal with this on a daily basis pretty much all spring, summer and fall. I allow the children to CAREFULLY pick up insects and especially encourage them to allow the insect to crawl onto them if possible. The more they learn about them, the less afraid of insects they are the more likely they are to be kind to them. The children know that bugs found inside the daycare are "lost" and that we take them "home" (outside) and we do NOT kill them, because we wouldn't want someone to do that to us just for being lost. We've had the talk about accidentally stepping on bugs - it's an accident, don't beat yourself up over it. But if you see an insect on a walk, it's just as easy to step over it as it is to step on top of it, so we step over.

My most memorable experience with bugs and children was an 8 year old boy for some reason thought it would be funny to crush half of a huge caterpillar with his foot. Some of the children who'd been in our program a bit longer knew I would NOT be okay with this and immediately ran over to get me. I think my absolute horror at this half-smushed caterpillar showed on my face because the boy seemed immediately upset - I don't think anyone had ever explained to him that insects are alive and want to stay alive, just like us. I asked if it would be fair if another animal decided to kill us just because it felt like it. He really seemed to get it, and after I explained that the caterpillar was suffering and had to kill it so it wouldn't be hurt any longer, the children made it a little grave and went around to find other bugs to watch and move to safe places, including the original caterpillar squasher. So in the end, the life of one bug hopefully saved many others. :-)
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#15 Old 08-13-2011, 07:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pandora9kry View Post

My most memorable experience with bugs and children was an 8 year old boy for some reason thought it would be funny to crush half of a huge caterpillar with his foot.

This just makes me soooo mad. Especially caterpillars for some reason, they seem so gentle and innocent and they are so sweet and curious.

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#16 Old 08-13-2011, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PiSis View Post

it's natural innocent curiosity and i say let the kids explore and house and examine all the bugs they like.
as long as there's no sadistic maiming involved...ie pulling off legs/wings or burning thereof.

agree.

Of course, if you have a kid that wants to maim things, you have a whole other set of issues.

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#17 Old 08-14-2011, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
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This just makes me soooo mad. Especially caterpillars for some reason, they seem so gentle and innocent and they are so sweet and curious.

Agreed - I was SO upset! This caterpillar was huge, too, like t he size of my thumb. But I think he really learned from that experience, which is a good thing!
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#18 Old 08-14-2011, 02:04 PM
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My kids HATE bugs. They want nothing to do with them. YAY.

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#19 Old 08-14-2011, 02:05 PM
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agree.

Of course, if you have a kid that wants to maim things, you have a whole other set of issues.

effin A

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