Graduate students from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology shared their plant and insect ecology know-how with middle schoolers at Ann Arbor’s Peace Neighborhood Center recently. 

EEB graduate students joined with students from the School of Natural Resources and Environment to run two workshops, one each on the ecology of insects and plants as part of the center’s after school activity program. Beatriz Otero Jimenez, Zachary Hajian-Forooshani, and Kaleigh Fisher (SNRE) organized the workshops.

“The goal of the workshops is to expose the students to biology and ecology and opportunities in the field, as well as sharing a general understanding of the natural history of plants and insects,” said Jimenez, an EEB graduate student, who is studying biodiversity conservation and genetic evolution. “Basically, to get them excited about ecology!”

The Peace Neighborhood Center  provides several programs for low-income families in the Ann Arbor area. The volunteers facilitated activities in small student groups for about 20 budding middle school scientists. They discussed the following: flowering plants, the plant life cycle, parts of the flower and functions, comparing different flowers, the importance of pollination, and how fruits and vegetables grow. During the insect workshop, students learned what an insect is,  how to differentiate between insects and other invertebrates (e.g., spiders), and the role of insects in pollination.

The student volunteers brought in specimens, collections and microscopes. They used a pea plant-aphid-lady beetle system to introduce the kids to ecological interactions such as herbivory and predation.

Thanks to the following volunteers (graduate students unless otherwise noted). From EEB: Shawn Colborn, Cindee Giffen (lecturer in EEB), Beatriz Otero Jimenez, Senay Yitbarek, Mariana Valencia and Megan Van Etten (postdoctoral fellow). From SNRE: Lauren Edson, Kaleigh Fisher and Jonathan Morris.

EEB graduate student Shawn Colborn and SNRE grad Jonathan Morris work with students at Ann Arbor’s Peace Neighborhood Center as part of an after school activity program on the ecology of plants and insects.