Kathy Hays, BHP Teacher
Arizona, USA


Note from BHP Team: 

Possibilities abound for how to use the monthly Big Question articles, which feature great new content, in your Big History classroom. Why not take inspiration from veteran BHP teacher Kathy Hays, who has already noodled on options for connecting this resource to existing concepts, skills, and more in the second half of the BHP curriculum? 

Read on for fresh ideas later in the course, linked to this month’s Big Question article, “Where Would We Be Without Bugs?” Michael Wall, Curator of Entomology from the San Diego Natural History Museum, recaps the history of bugs and the influence they’ve had on humans—and gives us a glimpse into how our future might continue to be shaped by these six-legged friends. You can check out even more ideas from colleagues on how to use the article in the classroom immediately in this separate post.


I think there are a couple of ways you could incorporate insects in Unit 6. We just completed the Hunter Gatherer Menu activity from Lesson 6.3, and of course, insects were a huge item on the menu. We read the article “Foraging” prior to students creating menus. It identifies insects as part of the diet of hunter gatherers, so it’s a perfect connection to discuss the significance of insects throughout history. It aligns nicely with the last section of Dr. Wall’s article. You might also talk about how insects are still consumed by a large number of people around the globe today. Prior to creating the menu, it might be fun to have students create a T chart comparing the positives and negatives of insects in the modern era. One example is a recent article about how cockroaches are being used to process food waste in China. While this seems to be a positive impact, I’m totally uncomfortable with the concept of billions of roaches all in one place! It could be a great lead-in to the Unit 6 Investigation, which focuses on communication, and includes a text on how bees communicate.

In Unit 7, Lesson 7.0, the activity Biography of a Crop could be extended to include a paragraph on insects that are beneficial and detrimental to the crop. We have an ag. science program at our school and I inquired about possibly doing an interdisciplinary lesson on insects and the impact they have on crops, as well as the impact insects have on animals raised. Students could get some hands-on experience as they dig for insects. They could even create an infographic charting the insects found in the land lab.

It might also be interesting to incorporate the role of insects in the rise (and possibly the fall) of agricultural civilizations. Still thinking about exactly how I would approach this, but I think students would be fascinated with the impact of insects on society over time.

Of course, in Unit 8, the impact of insects can be felt with the Columbian Exchange (Lesson 8.2) and the rise of malaria and other diseases that were transported across the ocean as the world zones connected. It might even be interesting to add a card to the World Zone Game, in Lesson 8.0. The new card would make an outbreak of malaria one of the negative consequences. The impact of honey bees being transported to the New World is also significant to the rise of agriculture and improvement in the quality of life due to the availability of new foods.

It all comes together in Unit 9 when we bring each of these ideas back to incorporate insects into the Anthropocene in Lesson 9.2. The search for a cure to diseases caused by insects such as malaria, Zika, and other viruses, as well as how insects are being used to find cures for diseases is incredibly relevant. The topic can transition to GMOs created to resist the impact of insects. There are so many possibilities!

Finally, the article is an excellent addition to Unit 10. How will the decline in insects impact the future? We had a huge discussion on the decline of bees last year. This expands on that topic and provides some solid evidence. Extremely depressing, but important to create awareness.

About the author: Kathy Hays has been teaching for 30 years, and teaching Big History since 2015. She teaches five BHP classes a year, and so reaches about 130 ninth-grade students. Her school is on a semester schedule with daily 52-minute periods. Kathy’s favorite thing about teaching Big History is the opportunity to learn with her students!

Header image: Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

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