KSU Insect Zoo
Before you even creep inside the building, the exterior of Kansas State University’s insect zoo let’s you know exactly what’s in store. Kiffnie Holt, the zoo’s coordinator, says this is not a working laboratory with a window for people to look through.
“It's completely 100 percent outreach--we don't do any research, we're just here as a part of the department to have an interface with the public. People can come here for insect identification, they can come here with classes, that they can supplement their curriculum, K-4 is what a lot of our field trips end up being. Or you can just come here with your family, on a cold afternoon, and have a warm place to hang out and learn something cool about nature.”
At the center of the zoo is a leafcutter ant habitat, complete with clear tubing that allows visitors to watch their never-ending march.
“Especially when the ants are really interested and they find something to start cutting, and they'll be carrying pieces of leaves through their tube and into their colony, that's everyone's favorite, it's such a fun thing to watch.”
Not everything is alive, but much of it is. You can see some things you might find in your kitchen – and some things that you probably won’t. Even a few things straight from the world of fantasy.
“So having a big rubber tarantula; I mean, if you're scared and angry, you could probably hit it first, but by the end, I like to see the kids pick it up and play with it, and then they'll hug it and they'll take it over and read it a book, and I think that's just a wonderful way to get the kids a little less scared of something that they may be afraid of.”
The approach is working; in 2008, more than eight thousand people visited the zoo. Small groups of family and friends have eclipsed the organized field trips, as more and more people come in for a hands-on approach to things they’d usually rather not touch.