- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
That these students were, even after a four-hour, 226-mile bus trip from Tulare County to Yolo County.
Destination: the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, campus.
The 11 students, all children of California migrant workers, filed into the Bohart Museum to learn about the diversity of insects, and polish their journalism skills by participating in a press conference.
And then something unexpected happened.
It occurred after they learned about the museum's global collection of nearly 8 million specimens--from pollinators to pests to parasites. It occurred after they went eye-to-eye with the critters in the live petting zoo, holding walking sticks and touching a tarantula named Coco McFluffin. It occurred after they quizzed Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, at their press conference.
The unexpected: On the way home, most said they wanted to become entomologists.
And most said they wanted to study at UC Davis.
At the Bohart Museum, Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, opened drawer-after-drawer of specimens, introducing them to the beauty of the butterflies, from the large blue Morpho to the iconic monarch. The students marveled at the diversity of insects, from orchid bees to rhinoceros beetles. "You can become an entomologist," Yang told them, "and collect insects and find new species."
Then, the visitors switched from budding entomologists to budding journalists. Wearing press badges and carrying yellow notepads (jotted with "who, what, when, where"), they quizzed Kimsey on her occupation, the Bohart Museum collections, and her childhood.
They sat on the floor, circling her, and politely raised their hands to ask questions.
“Yes?” she said. “Go ahead.”
.”How long have you been here at UC Davis?
“I've been on the faculty for 28 years,” Kimsey told them. “I got my bachelor's degree here in 1976 and then went on to get my doctorate in 1979. That was a long time ago. It makes me feel old.”
What do you like best about your job?
“I like insects and I like being with people.”
What do you study?
How many specimens are there at the Bohart Museum?
“We have nearly eight million specimens and they're from all over the world. Scientists come here to study them. We also have open houses during the academic year and the museum is open Monday through Thursday for visitors.”
How many live insects do you have at the Bohart?
“We have 200 to 300 in our petting zoo. We have Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Some of the tarantulas get grumpy like people do. And when you see them, there are three illegal words you're not allowed to say here at the Bohart Museum: yuck, eww and gross.
Have you ever been stung by a bee?
“Yes, but it just hurts for a little while, but some people are allergic to them and get very sick. Honey bees sting when they're guarding their hive, their home. It's a defensive measure.”
“When I was five, my parents gave me an insect net.”
Do you have a sister and does she like bugs?
“Yes, I have a sister but she's never liked bugs. She likes horses and now raises horses.”
Have you ever eaten a bug?
“When I was little I used to eat bugs and my sister ate an earthworm or maybe it was the other way around. I was two years old and have no memory of that.”
What do you think is the most beautiful insect?
“The Western yellow tiger swallowtail is big, yellow and pretty.”
Kimsey said her major professor, Richard M Bohart, for whom the museum is named, influenced her to study bees and wasps. She said she enjoys collecting insects throughout the world.
As she spoke, the students--all staffers for the Migrant Voice newspaper--jotted down her comments.
Preparation played a key role in their visit to the Bohart Museum. Before embarking on their trip, the youths studied insects as well as journalism techniques, said Gloria Davalos, area administrator of the Migrant Education Program, Tulare County Office of Education. “I have four school districts in Tulare County that participate in journalism: Tulare City, Tipton, Pixley and Earlimart. “Of these schools Tulare City attended the study trip to UC Davis. In Tulare City we have Roosevelt School, Pleasant School, Heritage School, and Maple School.”
How did they prepare for the press conference? “The students participated in an extended day journalism curriculum that taught them what a newspaper entailed, the different parts of a newspaper parts of an article--hook, lead sentence, details, and conclusion--how to conduct an interview, how to create meaningful questions for an interview utilizing the five W's--who, what, when, where, and why.”
“We loved our Bohart Museum experience,” Davalos said. “It was fascinating to think of insects in a different light and to expose our migrant students to a realistic career in something that is common in all parts of the world."
Kimsey smiled when she told the 11 students the "one" visitor rule: No saying "yecch" or "ick" or "gross" when you meet the petting zoo residents, including the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, and walking sticks. They quickly obliged, apprehensive looks quickly flashing into approving smiles. "Cool!" "Neat!" "Can I hold it?"
"The bugs weren't as scary as they looked,” Davalos said.
The mission of the Migrant Education Program, she said, is “to create a college-going culture empowering the child and family, through advocacy, education, and collaboration of resources, to reach their highest potential."
When the students departed the Bohart Museum, they thanked the scientists, who encouraged them to return and "not be strangers." The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is open to the public Monday through Thursday.
“We appreciate the time and opportunity spent with our migrant students and the wealth of knowledge they brought back,” Davalos said.
The students published their stories in "The Migrant Voice," part of the Tulare County Office of Education:
Some of the excerpts:
- "While at UC Davis, I asked Professor Lynn Kimsey who influenced her to get the job as an entomologist. She said 'Richard M. Bohart'; he was her teacher at UC Davis when she was then a student. She likes it that she gets to learn new things and travels a lot. Professor Kimsey has discovered new bugs."
- "The entomology museum is a great place to see new species of bugs....a professor showed us a container of unknown bugs from all over the world. Next, we opened a storage room that was organized like a library and we saw walls filled close to the ceiling with cases of beautiful and exotic dead butterflies...our journalism team learned that the entomologists not only get to find new species of bugs, but have the remarkable job of naming them. Before our journalism team went on our trip to UC Davis, I was grossed out and anxious about seeing and touching bugs. However, after visiting Davis' awesome entomology museum, I was thrilled that we had the opportunity to see and learn about exotic new species of bugs."
- "We went to college and learned about crazy bugs...We interviewed Professor Kimsey; she is an entomologist. An entomologist studies bugs. She told us her parents gave her a bug net when she was young. Professor Kimsey and her sister even ate a bug. One of her favorite bugs is the wasp. She has traveled to other countries and likes to learn new things. There are a lot of butterflies around the world. Some of the butterflies looked like they had eyes on them."
- "Professor Kimsey takes care of the bugs; she is also a teacher there. We interviewed her and she said that she has loved insects since she was five years old! She enjoys catching them and has been doing that since her parents gave her a bug net when she was little."
- "Do you know what a walking stick is? We do! A walking stick is an insect. It looks like a real stick. This is so other animals can't see it....we were even allowed to touch the walking stick. Their feet felt sticky...Bugs are fun to learn about and some can be helpful to people."
The students headlined their stories: "Beautiful UC Davis," "One Amazing Study Trip," "The Day We Went to UC Davis, "My Dreams, UC Davis!" and "Butterflies Everywhere!"
One wrote: "Now you know what college I went to visit. You should consider going there, too! I hope I go to UC Davis when I go to college. That is my dream."