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Entomology students bind art and science

Marilyn McPheron speaks to students about different types of books. Credit: Courtesy of Carol Anelli

Marilyn McPheron speaks to students about different types of books. Credit: Courtesy of Carol Anelli

Students probably weren’t expecting to write a book when they signed up for Entomology 1101, a general education course that focuses on insect biology.

Carol Anelli, professor and associate chair for the Department of Entomology at Ohio State, teaches the Entomology 1101 course along with Wendy Klooster, a program coordinator in the same department. Anelli assigned her students the insect-myth project, which will require them to create an insect-related myth and then turn it into a book.

Although this is the first year Anelli has incorporated this assignment into a course at OSU, it was a part of her curriculum during her time teaching at Washington State University. The assignment serves the purpose of facilitating connections among entomology, anthropology, creative writing, art and history, according to an article Anelli and some of her colleagues published about the insect-myth assignment in 2009.

“It’s teaching students to think in a more interdisciplinary way,” Anelli said.

Each of the 34 students was assigned an insect and tasked with using its natural history to explain a phenomenon. One of Anelli’s former students invented a story describing how humans first learned to build shelters from a caddisfly, an insect that makes protective cases as larvae.

Sierra Mayle, a second-year in social work, is creating a book explaining how the yucca moth lost its tongue for the entomology course. She stated that she appreciates that this assignment allows for creative expression on top of being a valuable source of education.

“I enjoy the immense amount of learning,” Mayle said.

Creating the story is just one component of the assignment, however. The students are also required to make their own books, an aspect that printmaker Marilyn McPheron is assisting them with.

A page from "King Monty and the Creation of the Mantispid" a book made by one of Anelli's former students. Credit: Courtesy of Carol Anelli

A page from “King Monty and the Creation of the Mantispid” a book made by one of Anelli’s former students. Credit: Courtesy of Carol Anelli

McPheron has been crafting books since 2007, and spoke with the entomology students about different types of books, focusing on the accordion style, the type of book they will be making.

“(Accordion-style books) can be very simple and be effective or they can be very elaborate and be effective, so it leaves a lot of opportunity to be creative,” McPheron said.

McPheron acknowledged the value of being creative and noted that story-sharing might even generate more interest in the field of entomology.

“They have an opportunity to take what they’re learning about entomology and make it into a story and present it to others,” she said.

Although Anelli’s entomology students will still have to complete a final exam after their books are complete, she said she hopes this project will offer a refreshing change while helping her students appreciate the “rich human history of mythology.”

“They should have fun with it and have some creative juices flowing at the end of the semester when it’s a lot harder to feel that way,” Anelli said.

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