Bug Camp explores insect life

07/28/05 12:00AM By Steve Zind
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(Host) Most people spend the summer months trying to keep the bugs at bay. But one group of young people is reveling in Vermont's insect life this week.

VPR's Steve Zind paid a visit to Bug Camp.

(Instructor) "Once you've got the wire through the top you're done with the hardest part."

(Zind) You begin by making your own bug net. Once its been tried out as a hat or an air guitar, and you've seen how well you can balance the end of the handle on the tip of your nose, it's ready to be used to catch insects.

(The whoosh of net and voices)

(Zind) Welcome to the first ever Bug Camp at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier.

(Zind) "Tell me something I might not know about bugs.
(Student) Every single bug in the world has six legs and three body parts and its skeleton is on the outside."

(Zind) Every day this week about twenty enthusiastic first through third graders are learning what insects are, where they live, what they eat and even what happens if there's a terrible insect accident.

(Student) "If you step on a cricket or an animal they just make this crrr' sound."

(Zind) No insects were harmed in the making of this story, but many were captured in the newly made nets.

(Instructor) "Grace, do you want to put him in the pavilion so he has more space? He looks like he's getting a little stressed out in that jar."

(Zind) With insect guides spread out on a picnic table and noses pressed to jars, the VINS staff and the young campers identify their catch.

(Student) "Actually, I think it's the same."

(Zind) The field work is combined with insect art projects and lessons about insect anatomy.

Halfway through Bug Camp these kids have no trouble telling the real insects from the pretenders.

(Student) "Insects have six legs and if spiders don't have six legs, they're not insects."

(Zind) "Is there something that you have learned about bugs here at Bug Camp?
(Student) Yes. They have three parts of their body and some have four. And they have the things that keep them alive.
(Zind) What do you mean the things that keep them alive?
(Student) I don't know."

(Zind) Bug Camp is one of a series of week-long summer day camps offered by VINS. And it seems like a natural: combining a chance to be outside with an opportunity to study something that almost every child is fascinated with. One young girl declared it's the one subject where her knowledge is greater than her parents.

(Zind) "What's to like about bugs.
(Student) I think that they're so fun and awesome. Besides, they're part of my life.

(Zind) Bug Camp concludes Friday, but this Sunday, many of the kids will return for the second annual VINS Bug Fest at the North Branch Nature Center. Bug Fest features tours with naturalists, displays, demonstrations, and a cockroach race. Included in the refreshments will be a trail mix featuring edible bugs. Results of a very unscientific survey at Bug Camp indicate that most of these children will dine elsewhere.

(Zind) "Do you know they're going to have some bugs you can eat?
(Student) Yea, but I can't go there.
(Zind) Would you eat bugs if you could?
(Student) Not really.

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind in Montpelier.
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