K-State Research and Extension
Institute, Field Trip Spark Interest in Science

PHOTO: Students collect soybean leaves during the field trip. Their teachers attended a Summer Soybean Institute and developed lesson plans to incorporate in their classrooms.


Molly Emert’s fifth-grade students don’t bring her apples or candy. They bring her bags of insects because they are excited about learning, especially about soybeans and insects. 

Kids, SoybeansEmert joined four teachers from area elementary schools at a three-week Soybean Summer Institute on the K-State Manhattan campus. Entomologist Brian McCornack, postdoctoral research associate Wendy Johnson, and other faculty helped the teachers learn about soybeans and insects. The teachers developed 15 lesson plans to take back to their classrooms. 

The institute was developed by a group in Nebraska and sponsored by the United Soybean Board. This year, K-State supplied the teachers with iPod touches and macro bands which allowed the teachers to take close-up pictures of soybean structures and insects for use in their classrooms. 

In September, the teachers and four parents took the combined classes — about 150 students — on a field trip to K-State’s North Agronomy Farm. In addition to seeing the plants and research equipment used to plant and harvest soybeans, the kids used large nets to sweep for insects. 

“The kids loved being up close and personal with soybean plants,” Emert said. “They were excited to be out there and were fearless about touching insects.” 

A video of the soybean field trip is posted to www.ksre.ksu.edu/bugs

McCornack’s goal was to empower teachers with knowledge to inspire others. 

“The children are learning to ask relevant questions and see science as a system,” McCornack said. “They learned the difference between beneficial insects and pests. They looked at bugs they caught in their nets and asked what makes them a pest? 

“We chose soybean because there are more than 4 million acres of soybean in Kansas, and 60 to 70 percent of processed foods contain soybean products.” 

Emert has already incorporated four of the lesson plans in her classroom. Students identified and pinned insects to foam boards, discussed products made from soybeans, and made detailed drawings of soybean plants. 

“Some focused on the roots and some noticed the tiny hairs on the stem,” Emert said. “They all took it from a different perspective. It helped me get to know my students — their attention to detail and thinking process.” 

When the first-graders at her school were studying insects, the teachers asked Emert if her students would help. 

Each fifth-grader researched an insect and created a visual aid for the presentation to a first-grade partner. 

Emert added, “It really sparked interest in the first graders. They are excited about what they will do as fifth-graders.” 

The teachers stay in contact with McCornack using PATH, a free message board application for their iPod touches. 

McCornack also is involved with a USDA-funded project with crop scientists across the Southern Great Plains. The Web-based wheat decision support system (iwheat.org) can be used on all mobile devices and helps make quick management decisions, as well as report pest issues to research scientists. 

McCornack and his lab have developed other Web-based systems (www.thebugspot.org, www.soypod.info) for monitoring pests in Kansas and are actively looking for participants to test the technologies. 


For More Information:
Brian McCornack, 785-532-4729, mccornac@ksu.edu


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