STEM Tuesday — Pests that Bug Us — Writing Tips and Resources

Bugs offer wonderful opportunities for creativity and science. This week’s blog discusses art activities and the connection to science. First a lesson plan on drawing bugs from an experienced art professor. Then a suggestion for a convenient portable sketch kit. And last, how origami and science connect. Drawing Bugs   Lisa Granata My good friend, Professor Lisa Granata, who has 30 years’ experience teaching all ages, has used bugs as models in her art classes. She said the young students were enthused much more than the adults. She kindly shared her lesson directions, which she has used for both kids and adults. 1.         Gather art supplies- pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener, heavy drawing paper or watercolor paper, extra fine sharpie, watercolors set (Jack Richeson 38010 Yarka Student Semi Moist Watercolor), a cup for water, paper towels, watercolor brushes (detail brush # 0 and a round tip brush size 12), masking tape and a magnifying insect box. (MagniPros Pack of 3 Magnifier Box Bug Viewer Magnifies up to 5X(500%) with Crystal Clear Image) 2.         Go to the windowsill in your home and look for insects. Find the bugs with the most interesting shapes, patterns, or colors. 3.         Carefully place insects into the box to study. Carefully observe the lines, shapes, colors, and patterns. 4.         Tape all four sides of the edges of your paper to your table. This will keep your paper flat and leave a border. 5.         Take your pencil and eraser and sketch one large insect on your paper or you might choose 3 different insects from your windowsill collection. Think about your composition. Draw large and fill the page. 6.         Back up and check your proportions. Are the shapes correct? If not, make small adjustments. (This is part of the creative process). 7.         Trace all pencil lines with your extra fine sharpie. 8.         Fill your cup with water, take out a paper towel, open your watercolor set and wet your brushes. 9.         Lightly dip your wet brush into the semi wet watercolors to add color to the insects. Carefully examine the insect’s details under the magnifying glass. 10.       Have fun painting! 11.       Peel off your tape the next day after the paper is dry. Several models of loups are available at low cost just for that purpose. In my part of the country, we have an abundance of stink bugs and lady bugs that get inside during the winter and die before we spot them. If your windows are so airtight, you can probably find other sources. According to the American Museum of Natural History: In terms of numbers of species, insects certainly represent the largest percentage of the world’s organisms. There are more than 1 million species of insects that have been documented and studied by scientists. The ways the bug drawings can be used in classroom or educational settings are nearly as numerous as bugs themselves. An insect journal is definitely at the top of the list, but there is much more – posters, story illustrations, animation, reports, fine arts. You can order loups here. Pack of 3 Magnifier Box Bug Viewer Magnifies up to 5X(500%)
Loupe photo
Bug Loupe
And here. Carson 4.5x BugLoupe Pre-Focused Stand Loupe Magnifier Here are some more reference books for bug drawing. A Sketching Kit One of my favorite sketching materials is Inktense pencils. They are useful for both the beginning and experienced artist. Because most people are familiar with the physical activity of using a pencil, there is no learning curve of skill in that aspect. Yet the pencils, which are brilliant of color more than regular colored pencils, can be used several ways. First, they can be used like regular colored pencils – dry with strokes and hatching. Second, they can be used like paint, applying either wet or with a brush. Or they can be used in combination. Derwent, the manufacturer, has information on their website They are much more portable than regular watercolors. You can carry a whole sketch kit in a pocket or small bag, making it a great option for field work.
Michael LaFosse author
Michael LaFosse author
Origami and Bugs Artist Michael Fosse, one of the world’s most accomplished origami artists, has a number of well-planned books available on origami insects. The papermaker and author was trained as a biologist. He says he finds his strongest inspiration in the natural world preferring to study his subjects in their natural habitats. He was a guest artist at my university, so I saw first-hand his amazing skill. ( Here are his books specifically about origami bugs.
And in the interest of the environment, I have included this book. While not dedicated to insects specifically, it is a reference for recycling and reusing materials that might otherwise end up in landfill.
Trash Origami
Trash Origami
Besides studying insects, scientists and engineers have used the art of paper folding for such practical matters as the most efficient airplane and air vehicle wings, how to fold an airbag, and origami even has practical applications for research on proteins. PBS has a documentary called “Between the Folds” that merges the art/science applications. You can also read about other origami applications in this article from National Geographic – “Origami is revolutionising technology, from medicine to space.” Additional resources. I hope you enjoy these insect activities and are inspired to do some creative work. You don’t need much by way of materials to start out, but all the activities provide good brain work and will enhance your knowledge of insects. Margo Lemieux, Professor Emerita Lasell University, spent part of the pandemic making origami boxes from failed etchings and prints. Creativity is not for the faint of heart.
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Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her.
Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020