Last week and this week, I have been teaching "ecology" to 7th and 8th graders as part of our science camp. Last week we had the girls, this week the boys. I have placed "Ecology" in quotes because our lesson about determining species diversity has collapsed into - what is the insect? what is this plant? Which is fine, but if I do this again in the future, I want them to see that ecology is more than natural history.
Surprisingly, the girls seemed more enthusiastic collecting spiders than the boys. They had no problem with going into the tall grass and though there were screams when they found large spiders, they were really into it. The boys - not so much. They would have stayed at the edge of the field if we would have let them. Though once I told them "The girls last week had no problem getting into the tall grass", they finally went into the grass. While I don't like to appeal to stereotypes, I felt like I had to do something to get them into it. And, I knew it would work.
I have really enjoyed the experience and hope that I have been in some way a role model to these kids, even if it just demonstrating that most insects and spiders won't hurt you if you touch them.