Elementary Students Research Beetles with Help of KU Biodiversity Institute
By Ron Seidel
Raintree students examine prints of various beetles during their Art Engagement class-Photo credit Caroline Chaboo.
Students at Raintree Montessori School in Lawrence are turning their research of the natural world into art, and in turn, are helping educate others.
Caroline Chaboo, curator of entomology, brought large prints of beetles into Raintree’s art engagement class, which is led by Cindy Sears. The class of 12 students, ranging from seven to 10 years old, were captivated by the beetles’ ornate structures. After viewing the prints, the students decided to work together to research the beetles and curate an exhibit in Raintree.
The student-led research branched out to include staff and resources outside of their arts engagement class. For example, Raintree Latin instructor Will Sharp helped students learn to translate the scientific Latin names of beetles. The students were encouraged to pursue their interests as far as they wish, whether it be in arts, science, music, or other endeavors.
“When a child finds something they are truly passionate about, they want to return to the feeling again and again,” said Lleanna McReynolds, head of school at Raintree, “this can only happen when students are given time to pursue subjects of interest”
The students’ partnership with the Biodiversity Institute helps them to do just that. The students plan a series of bug-related events such as outdoor collecting, and watching and drawing insects and plants. Caroline connected the students with undergraduate entomology researchers who plan to volunteer their time at the events.
Students prepare the beetle exhibit, through which they will lead informative tours-Photo credit Cindy Sears.
By giving students resources to explore their interests beyond the classroom, McReynolds believes the students experience true development.
“Watching these children in the hallways of Raintree, using a level to adjust the artwork, writing the common names from the Latin and preparing to take visitors on tours and talk about what they have learned, that is when truly learning takes place,” said McReynolds, “there is nothing better.”