Sparking Curiosity—A Closer Look at the Beloved Class IX Insect Project
If you ask a student to list things they associate with Waterford, there are a few staples that will undoubtedly come up: The uniform. The views from the quad. Reading The Odyssey in Class VIII. And, invariably: the Class IX Insect Project.
The Class IX Insect Collection project has been a staple of the Waterford biology curriculum for decades. Veteran teacher Mark Bromley has been running the project since the mid-1980s, a project which is now taught by Bekka Joslin and James Harris as well. And the class of rising IX students will embark on the collection of insects in just a few weeks with an introduction to the project.
Students learn how to find and collect insects from the Wasatch mountains, their yards, and the Waterford campus. Some students even go on insect-collecting ventures while on family vacations. “There is a scavenger hunt type of drama and challenge to it that makes it enjoyable for students,” says long-time teacher James Harris.
This project is one that connects the whole community. Mark Bromley keeps a reference collection, full of specimens from years past, and current students are awed when they find an insect pinned by a parent. “They look at me like I am ninety years old,” says Bromley good-naturedly.
While some students may initially be squeamish about the prospect of handling insects, that trepidation soon fizzles away. “When you’ve pinned insects for like an hour, trying to get them the right way, there’s no way you can be scared of them any more,” remarked Garrison H. (Class IX). Mark Bromley asserts that this is one of the benefits of this project—students often know very little about the microworld at all, and this project gives them an opportunity to engage with what can feel like a whole new world.
The impact of this project is not lost on students. Mark Bromley attests that when alums visit with him, some of their most powerful memories are of the insect project. Current students agree. Tony W. (Class IX) described how he learned so much more from this hands-on project than he could have from a textbook: “I learned things that you cannot see in pictures: the details on the dragonfly’s wings and its body.”
James Harris says he likes to teach this project because “students know insects since they were tiny kids, yet haven’t looked very closely before.” Current Class IX students echo his sentiments. “Once you have a net and a jar in your hand, you start to notice how many insects are constantly around you!” exclaimed Bonnie R. This project sparks students’ curiosity about their world and helps them be more thoughtful about their day-to-day surroundings.
“There are just certain things that we don’t notice in everyday life,” reflected Annabelle Q. “When you take the time to interact with the world around you, you learn all sorts of new things.”