Collecting Dragonflies with Girls in Science (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

This post is going to be a bit longer than my usual Wednesday posts.  It’s not going to live up to the Well-Nigh Wordless name today, but I feel the need to tell a longer story, you know?

A while back, I posted a photo and told a story about a group of girls that I worked with last year that was particularly wonderful.  This group of girls included mostly low-income, mostly minority, teenage girls, a combination that often (in my experience at least) means that the students aren’t at all interested in what I have to teach them and they don’t want to do the activity I have planned.  Anyone who’s worked with groups of teenagers knows how important appearances are to that age group and how it’s often not cool for a teen, especially a teen girl, to show an interest in something like a dragonfly.  Few things break my heart like seeing that one kid who really wants to play with some bugs, who wants to learn, but pretends to hate it like everyone else so he/she doesn’t stand out.  That was 100% not the case with the group I worked with last summer!  They were THRILLED about the dragonflies and were completely and utterly engaged the entire two hours I spent with them.  I practically had to drag them back inside when our time was up.  That experience ended up being one of the highlights of my year.

I returned to do the same presentation for the new group of girls attending this year’s camp today and was worried: surely lightning doesn’t strike twice?  To my very great pleasure, this group was even better than last year’s!  EVERY girl in the group, even the two who were screaming every time a butterfly came near them, ended up catching at least one dragonfly.  Two girls caught 10 dragonflies each in the 40 minutes we were outside and another couple of girls caught 7 and 8 respectively.  Girls who probably haven’t intentionally run in years were chasing dragonflies down with the nets and made some of THE most impressive catches I’ve ever seen.  It was AWESOME!!  Here’s the group headed down the trail after successfully catching nearly a dozen dragonflies at the little stream that runs near the center where the camp is held:

campers walking down the greenway

I just have to say that, as someone who LOVES teaching people about insects and getting people outside to learn about the natural world, moments like these remind you of why you put up with any crap you have to deal with in your job.  These are the moments that make up for anything that’s ever gone wrong, any group that hated what you presented, and completely validate your career choices.  I am still on this amazing high from working with this group today – and I hope it lasts the rest of the week!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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12 thoughts on “Collecting Dragonflies with Girls in Science (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

  1. Dragonflies are my favorite winged creature. As a child in Minnesota I would fish the nymphs out of the water and set them on dock posts to transform. My Grandma told me they were called “Grandmother’s Darning Needles.” If you swore or said bad words they would sew your lips shut. It never scared me, just made me curious. I would sneak up on them and swear when I was alone. This started my fascination with them. I don’t have holes in my lips or thread hanging from my mouth. So apparently they were being kind those times I tried to see if it was true!

    • That’s awesome, that you were testing the sewing your lips shut thing. Glad to hear that you were brave enough to try it and I LOVE the image of someone swearing at dragonflies. Do you mind if I share this story in a future post? I just love it!

    • I agree that a good presenter can make a huge difference in how a group responds, but sometimes I’ve seen even the very best presenters fail to overcome those teen social barriers and get the group excited about learning outside. Those pressures on the kids are intense and very, very hard to overcome, so it’s great when you meet a group of teens who feel comfortable enough to let their inner nerd out and actually enjoy themselves doing something like catching dragonflies.

      I do appreciate the compliment though. :)

  2. Do the groups of girls come from the same organization? There may be some carryover involved. If the 2014 girls talked it up the next day, or actually any time over the year, then the 2015 group would be attending with the EXPECTATION of a wonderful day in store for them chasing dragonflies with nets! I am very happy that you are impacting low income females to positive experiences in science!!

    • I don’t believe they are all coming from the same group and that they’re coming from very diverse backgrounds. I’m sure there is some word of mouth though – and one girl was a repeat from last year. Always nice to know someone loved the camp so much they wanted to do it again! I doubt that had all that much to do with me specifically as their leader is great and seems to really connect with the girls, but she did end up being my top catcher. :)

  3. So, I’m over a year behind in replying. I read these when they come in, and then save them as I go through my emails later (sometimes A LOT later!) to really read and enjoy. This one especially touched me, and am so grateful that you share them. I hope that you’re having an even better summer, and please know that you make a difference in the life of someone who may not get out catching dragonflies, but enjoys them (and other insects & bugs & flying & creeping beings) too. :-)

    Thank you so much – kelly

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