GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida children with questions about insects, to complete a project or just satisfy their own curiosity, can find help at a newly redesigned University of Florida Web site that’s literally crawling with answers.
The Florida 4-H Bug Club site, at http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/bug_club, has been greatly expanded to provide a wealth of information for youngsters ranging from elementary through high school ages, said Rebecca Baldwin, an assistant extension scientist with the UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“You could spend days going through the information on the site now,” said Baldwin, who helped redesign the site.
Originally designed to help 4-H members participate in entomology competitions, the site now includes a locator map that shows where insects are likely to be found in various landscapes, overviews of 100 common Florida insects, videos demonstrating how to collect and display insects, reviews of field guide books, and an identification key that lets users identify insects by answering questions about their appearance.
Parents and teachers can benefit, too. There are pages with teachers’ guides and lesson plans, information on how to request live presentations by the department’s outreach program, and a gallery with artwork and stories submitted by users.
Nonetheless, one of the primary purposes of the site is to support 4-H entomology activities, said Thomas Fasulo, a senior associate with the entomology and nematology department.
“This is like an online 4-H club for entomology,” said Fasulo, who also helped with the redesign. “One big goal for us was to promote the collection competition. We’d like to see competitions start up at the county level.”
One page at the site is devoted to 4-H insect-collecting competitions, complete with rules and detailed advice on building a first-rate entry. Another provides state and national 4-H insect-collecting resources.
Though much of the new content is original material developed by UF faculty, some came from 4-H and other universities, Baldwin said.
The original site launched in 1998 and was designed by a former faculty member, John Zenger. In October 2008, the department’s outreach committee decided to expand the site and early this year obtained a 4-H Foundation grant for $3,400 to cover the cost. Much of the technical work for the redesign was performed by Denise Thomas, a recent graduate of UF’s doctor of plant medicine program.
In its first month, the new site has received about 12,000 page views, Fasulo said. The Web team plans to expand the most popular features.
“It’s like a big publication and we’ll keep working to improve it,” he said. “We hope that by educating kids at this level, hopefully when they grow up they’ll have a better understanding of the impact that insects have on our lives.”
In this photo released by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Rebecca Baldwin, an assistant extension scientist, poses by a display case in the entomology and nematology department building on the UF main campus in Gainesville – Thursday, April 23, 2009. Baldwin helped redesign the Florida 4-H Bug Club Web site, which provides information about insects and may be useful to children from elementary through high-school ages. The display case promotes the Web site and 4-H entomology activities. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Thomas Wright)