As we head towards the end of National Insect Week this year it seems like a very good time to introduce you to one of the hardest-working people in bugworld – Sally-Ann Spence of Minibeast Mayhem. If you’ve ever visited the Museum on one of our bug-handling days you may well have met Sally already, quite probably holding a stick insect.
Through Minibeast Mayhem, Sally does a lot of work to support the budding entomologists of tomorrow, running invertebrate-based educational workshops for schools and public outreach events around Oxfordshire. Sally is also a committee member of the Amateur Entomologists Society’s Bug Club, an entomological club for children.
We asked Sally to tell us a bit more about her work and her desire to encourage bug-loving kids. Here’s what she has to say:
“When I meet a child with a passion for bugs I always suggest to their family that they should join a society such as the AES Bug Club where they can take part in many events and their interest can be nurtured. Sometimes it becomes apparent that a child has more than just a passing interest in bugs; in fact they have a true passion that could extend well beyond childhood. Unfortunately the UK has no BSc in Entomology so the subject is often missed in our schools careers advice. This can leave some children and their families at a loss for how to pursue their interest.
So I decided to set up a voluntary mentoring scheme – the Ento Kids – not only for enthusiastic children but also to support their families. The scheme has been successful, thanks to the incredible support I have received from expert individuals, landowners, universities, entomology-related companies and museums and their staff.
The aim of the Ento Kids is to support children through a CREST Award and a two week work experience placement. We offer advice on GCSE and A level choices and suitable university courses, as well as provide access to sites for research projects (and potential future employers).
Ento Kids take part in active fieldwork on research experiments to learn practical skills and are introduced to a network of professional entomologists who share their expertise from previous experience.
Theory is also fundamentally important and this is where museums such as the Museum of Natural History in Oxford are vital. Darren Mann, Head of Life Collections, and his team in the Entomology Department encourage the Ento Kids unreservedly. The children are taught about fieldwork in various habitats around the world and about the processes involved for collected specimens. They are taught about active scientific research, the importance of the collections and how to conserve them. Best of all, they learn all of this in a hands-on way with the staff in the Museum itself.
We need our entomologists, both from the past and today, and National Insect Week is a celebration of insects that everyone can take part in.”
Sally-Ann Spence – Minibeast Mayhem