Children working on project
(Image credit: UEP SEPA 'Mosquitoes & Me' summer camp video)

For many people, mosquitoes are just a nuisance. But for some young people in Des Moines, Iowa, they’ve also become a source of fascination.

“They think a lot about, well, what happens if this mosquito larva is in cold water or if it’s in really hot water? Or what happens if this adult female mosquito can’t find a shady spot to rest in?” says Lyric Bartholomay, an entomologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “It’s awesome what kinds of questions emerge.”

In 2016, Bartholomay began working with Katherine Bruna of Iowa State University to create a hands-on curriculum about mosquito biology and public health.

They’ve used it in a summer camp and an afterschool program. They even crafted lessons for use at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lessons spark kids’ curiosity and get them thinking about topics such as how global warming affects mosquitoes and the spread of diseases such as Zika and malaria.

“The next generation of kids that are coming up are going to be the ones that are forced to face climate change really head on,” Bartholomay says.

So she says by encouraging kids’ critical thinking skills, they’re helping nurture tomorrow’s scientists and problem solvers.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Brooke Bauman is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill studying environmental science, geography, and journalism.