Department News

Elementary School Students Learn About Aphids with the Brisson Lab

April 17, 2019

brisson teaching

The Brisson lab recently visited the fifth-grade students at School #15, the Children’s School, to talk about biodiversity and species interactions. The goals of this visit were to promote scientific thinking in young students, and to have them experience, first-hand, the wonders of the natural world.

After the school’s morning briefing (in which the students sang their welcome song to all the visitors!) the Brisson lab introduced themselves to the fifth-grade students and their teacher, Ms. Zhan. They then talked about aphids -- insects that come in different shapes, sizes and colors, and live all over the world. The students split up into smaller groups to observe aphids in real life and were encouraged to ask questions and note things they found interesting. They had so many great questions and came up with scientific reasons for why aphids are the way they are! These observational and critical thinking skills are great to learn at a young age.

After discussing the diversity that is found in nature, the Brisson lab members explained how aphids are an important part of the ecosystem. Aphids feed on plants, and other organisms feed on aphids. One of the most common predators of aphids is the ladybug, and the Brisson lab brought along some ladybugs to demonstrate this. This was an exciting activity for the students, who watched in amazement at how fast a hungry ladybug could eat! Many students initially found the idea of being close to insects gross, but as the morning went on, many were asking to hold the aphids or ladybugs. This is another goal of the Brisson lab -- to show students that many different organisms are important in science, and anyone is able to work with them!

After the aphid activities, the class of approximately 30 children came together to discuss what they had learned and to ask questions. Some of the insights were funny – one student spoke about her new appreciation for the true nature of ladybugs. Some of the insights were more serious – for example, talking about energy tradeoffs in winged versus wingless aphids. All of it was time well spent for everyone involved. This is the second year that the Brisson lab has visited Ms. Zhan’s fifth grade classroom; they hope they can continue to visit for years to come.