Who will ultimately get bugs on the menu? Hint: they’re all under 18. We may know that edible insects hold massive sustainable protein potential, but our hard-wired food biases are stifling the rate of public acceptance. Children, on the other hand, are free of these subconscious barriers.
If the long term success of the edible insect movement rests with our unbiased next generation, then we need bugs in schools NOW!
Transform.Ed is a bold new project-based learning curriculum piloted during the 2016 Spring Semester at El Paso Leadership Academy (EPLA). Through an innovative, engaging, yet rigorous project-based curriculum students were encouraged to discuss, brainstorm, design, and produce solutions to real world problems within a highly autonomous learning environment. For students, positive outcomes of this pilot program included an increased ability to work collaboratively in groups, improved attitudes towards learning, and an increased sense of ownership over their own education.
Trasnform.Ed pilot students constructing a climate controlled edible mealworm farm. They learned about precision agriculture, the Internet of Things, entomophagy, and global food security. Using the project based learning model, standard math , reading, writing, science and social studies lessons were incorporated into the overall mealworm farming project. Upon completion of the Ento.Ed curriculum students possessed the skills and knowledge to share the concept and practice of edible insect farming with community members.
Based upon the success of a pilot program launched this year, EPLA will transition to a fully project-based learning model throughout its entire eighth grade class. Successive cohorts will use the scientific method to analyze the effect of production method on mealworm yields. Results will be shared with other mealworm farmers through student blogs and the Tiny Farms Forum. Further entomophagy projects and Ento.Ed curriculum will tackle black soldier fly larva farming to turn cafeteria waste into chicken feed and a sericulture project to turn our excess of mulberry trees into edible silk moth pupae and silk for student art projects.
Working with the great folks at EPLA and EdComm (a curriculum consultant), we wrote, implemented, and revised the full Ento.Ed mealworm farming curriculum. The existing curriculum walks the facilitator through the construction of a functional mealworm farming unit capable of producing 2 – 10 pounds of food grade mealworms per month. No prior knowledge of entomology or entomophagy (eating insects) is necessary for the successful execution of this project as mealworms are a very low maintenance livestock and all necessary background materials are provided. By the second mealworm harvest, students and instructors will be well versed in entomophagy concepts and mealworm farming techniques.
Lesson plans 1 - 6 will establish production in a climate controlled environment. Once established, farming maintenance is minimal and follow up lessons on data collection for yield analysis will be supplemented as subsequent cohorts of students continue to work with different phases of mealworm farming. Total construction cost for our mealworm farm was around $300 (see budget), but costs may vary in different locations with access to different donation levels.
In the spirit of an open source curriculum, we look forward to user feedback, additions, and modifications.
About the author: Meghan Curry is an entomophagy advocate, edible insect farmer, entomologist, and educator. For more information, please visit: bugvivant.com