By all accounts, the 12th annual Master Volunteer Entomology Specialist training was a “bug success”. This year’s class was held Sep 18-21 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center at Dallas and consisted of 28 participants from all over the state. Dr. Mike Merchant, Extension Urban Entomologist, hosted the class with support from Entomology Assistant Curator, Karen Wright, and Extension entomologists Erfan Vafaie and Robert Puckett.
Every year’s class agenda is somewhat unique. In addition to the core curriculum classes in general entomology, insect orders, integrated pest management, and insects of trees and landscapes, guest speakers spoke on biological control, bees and beekeeping, native pollinators, butterfly gardening, and environmental education. Field trips included visits to the Heard Nature Museum in McKinney and the Plano Environmental Education Center and Community Gardens.
The talk on native pollinators, by new entomology museum curator Karen Wright, was a first-time topic for MVES training. Karen is an expert on native bees, and provided a unique perspective on the importance of this often overlooked group of important pollinators. Karen also wowed the class with her 20-year-old Subaru, tricked out with giant hitchhiking bee and insect artwork.
Erin Hoffer, with the City of Plano, provided a change of pace from classroom lectures, demonstrating techniques for focusing and engaging young learners with insects. After an hour of interactive games, craft projects and songs students gained a better appreciation for how to approach children on their own level. The honey tasting session with bee educator Janet Rowe, stimulated everyone’s taste receptors and provided a better appreciation for the subtle differences in bee honey.
Because of overwhelming interest and limited class space, this year’s participants went through an screening process to assess their interests and motivation in entomology. Selected participants came ready to learn and eager to put their knowledge to work on entomology-related projects this year. Participants who completed the class and 20 volunteer hours will receive a pin identifying them as Entomology Specialists.
Click here to see images of the 2017 MVES class.
Of course the best testimony concerning the impact of a course comes from the participants themselves. Here are a few unsolicited comments I received about this year’s class:
- Thank you for a very enjoyable class. I was feeling stagnant as a master gardener and it rejuvenated me and peaked my interest again.
- I cannot begin to thank you enough for hosting and leading this year’s training. I am completely self-taught [in spiders] and it was so amazing to actually learn from experts in the field. The biggest thing I learned is: I might have missed my calling.
- I thoroughly enjoyed the hands-on, engaged and educational training I attended this week. and know more about insects now than I ever did! The presenters and presentations were exceptional and valuable. I look forward to apply what I have learned.
- The class, the speakers, tour guides, and fellow students were all great! I have participated in quite a few very good specialty training classes, but this was the best ever! Thank you!
- I had initially been hesitant about the class after a miserable experience with another poorly-organized specialty class, but Entomology Excels! Thanks so much.
- I have attended many certification courses over the years for both professional and personal projects. This course was the smoothest ever and all of the professionals involved and the auditor volunteers were amazing. Truly an exceptional experience and this is coming from one with the most discerning taste and high expectations.
Next year’s specialist class is scheduled for College Station. Check here for upcoming information.