Authors: Sara Zollota, Patricia Perez, Jena Allen, Tori Argenti, and Marina Ascunce
Faculty Mentor: Marina Ascunce
College: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of our outreach program “ImportANTs of Ants” in communicating scientific topics to children, sparking an interest in environmental protection and in sciences in general. As one of the worst invasive species of insects, the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) specifically impacts Florida as well as a good portion of the Southeast USA and elsewhere. RIFA has caused the country, ecosystem and its citizens a great deal of damage though economic, health and environmental costs. Thus, the topics of the program include the dynamic interplay of the ecosystem with native and invasive species such as RIFA. Through the use of various active learning approaches including presentations, handouts, crafts and live colonies, we evaluate the effectiveness of the material, the content learned by the children and their overall attitudes towards the topics, and future interests in research and environmental preservation. Approximately 400 students’ from three different schools, spanning 4 grade levels knowledge before and after the program were assessed using short anonymous surveys. We are expecting the students to learn about native/invasive species, increase their interest in the environmental protection as well as motivate them towards careers in research and science.