Nature and Science Programs at Wonder Works

Bug Finders at Wonder Works: 10 a.m. to noon, July 27-28
July 27, 2012, 8:05 am
Filed under: Bug Finders

Bug Finders takes place this Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Wonder Works.

You can catch live bugs from the garden and touch them if you want. We’ll search for bugs outside during the program, plus dig for bugs inside in large bins of garden soil. I just checked our bins, and we still have lots of Pill Bugs, worms, millipedes, and more waiting for you to find them:

Some of our Pill Bugs have been busy hatching and raising babies, which they carry around on their undersides for the first few days. These baby Pill Bugs are ready to find their own dead plants to eat:

You can also watch large tarantulas and scorpions brought by Sandy from Dave’s Pets-N-Stuff.  Smaller live bugs that will be visiting include grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and mealworms. (You can hold the mealworms if you want.)

You can also hunt for plastic bugs in the Great Outdoors exhibit and hidden in play dough, make a bug collage, and get ideas for collecting bugs at home. Plus we will have lots of children’s books about bugs for you read, including the ones recommended by Shira Belenke. You can go here to see Shira’s list of recommended books.

Bug Finders activities are included with general admission to Wonder Works ($6 per person for non-members). So, hope to see you there!

Recommended: Children’s Books about Bugs
June 22, 2012, 6:39 am
Filed under: Bug Finders

One of the best things about the Internet is that it makes it easier to borrow the books you need from your local library!

Shira Belenke is the former Director of Education at Wonder Works. She is currently studying to be a librarian. Shira’s helping out with Nature Works this summer by making lists of recommended books about the topic of the week. This week, it’s children’s books about bugs!

SWAN is a computer network that many Chicago-area libraries use to share books (including Oak Park Public Library). If your library is one of the 80 members of SWAN, you can follow the links below and put a hold on any of Shira’s recommended books. Go here for more information about SWAN.

Blobaum, C. (2005). Insectigations : 40 hands-on activities to explore the insect world. Chicago, Ill. : Chicago Review Press.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This book covers everything from how to journal to how to start your own investigation into the bug world. 

Cindy Blobaum takes readers through the steps of becoming entomologists in her book, Insectigations.  Covering everything from how to journal to how to start your own investigation into the bug world.  This book includes 40 hands-on activities and examples for becoming an entomologist.  A must read for every young scientist. Ages 7 and up.

Dodd, E. (2010). I love bugs. New York: Holiday House.  Follow this link to SWAN.

The story follows one child’s exploration of the outside world and discovery of the bugs living there. 

Emma Dodd’s book, I Love Bugs!, is a cute ode to bugs. The story follows one child’s exploration of the outside world and discovery of the bugs living there.  Told in rhyme and pictures, each of the bugs are given a distinct and disarming personality.  This is a cute story to read to any child, whether they like, or are scared of bugs. Ages 2 – 5.

Llewellyn, C. (2005). The best book of bugs.  (C. Forsey, A. Ricciardi di Gaudesi, D. Wright, Illus.).  Boston, Mass. : Kingfisher.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This book focuses on 6 different types of what most people call bugs.

Claire Llewellyn’s The Best Book of Bugs does not lie. Starting with an explanation of what is an insect, a true bug, and what are not bugs, this book focuses on 6 different types of what most people call bugs. This book includes a glossary and an index for easy reference.  The realistic illustrations, coupled with the information makes this a great reference book for young scientists. Ages 5 and up.

McDonald, M. (1995). Insects are my life. (P. B. Johnson, Illus.). New York : Orchard Books.  Follow this link to SWAN.

A sweet story about a young girl who dreams of growing up to become an entomologist.

Insects are my life, by Megan McDonald is a sweet story about a young girl who dreams of growing up to become an entomologist. The people around her are less than understanding about her love of bugs and desire to relate to them, all but one. A fun read for children with a passion about anything. Ages 4 and up.

Murphy, P. (2004). Investigating insects with a scientist. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers. Follow this link to SWAN.

Along with learning about insects, readers will learn how scientists go about investigating these creatures.

Patricia Murphy focuses on the scientists in her book, Investigating Insects with a Scientist.  Along with learning about insects, readers will learn how scientists go about investigating these creatures.  Included are a short glossary, bibliography for further learning, and directions on how to start your own research.  A must read for any future entomologist. Ages 6 and up.

Parker, N. W. & J. R. Wright (1987). BUGS. New York : Greenwillow Books.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This book focuses on 16 of the most common bugs, with jokes and fast facts about each.

Parker and Wright do a good job of combining a fun bug book for pre-readers with jokes and illustrations with a fast fact book about bugs for readers in their book Bugs.  This book focuses on 16  of the most common bugs. Included are a bibliography and the scientific classification of each of the bugs covered. A good read for kids getting started in the bug world. Ages 3 – 5.

Rothstein, B. (2011). Eye-popping 3-D bugs : phantogram creepy-crawlies you can practically touch. San Francisco, Calif: Chronicles Books.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Interesting facts and information coupled with illustrations that jump off the page. An ingenious introduction to bugs for children.

Eye-Popping 3-D Bugs by Barry and Betsy Rothstein is an ingenious introduction to bugs for children. Using phantogram technology, the bugs practically jump off the pages. Mixed with these amazing illustrations are interesting facts and information about 19 different bugs, including an explanation about what phantogram is and how 3-D works. The mixture of illustrations and information creates a book that can appeal to readers and pre-readers alike. Ages 3 and up.

Snedden, R. (1993). What is an insect? San Francisco : Sierra Club Books for Children, 1993.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This book focuses on insect characteristics and lifecycles.

For anyone who has ever wondered, What is an Insect?, answers the question.  Instead of chapters focusing on specific insects, Robert Sneedden focuses on characteristics. The illustrations are a combination of photographs and realistic pictures highlighting various aspects and phases of an insect’s life.  Included in this book is a glossary of new terms and an index for easy reference. This book is good for transitioning from younger kids to older kids informative books. Ages 6 and up.

Stein, P. (2012). Bugs galore. (B. Staake, Illus.). Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Children play and interact in the world of fantastic looking bugs.

Peter Stein and Bob Staake come together to create a world filled with fantastic looking bugs. Bugs Galore does a good job of featuring boys and girls of various skin tones and hair color exploring and playing with bugs. The bugs themselves, are not realistic, but the text does a good job capturing the essence of the way we perceive bugs. This is a good story for any child who enjoys getting dirty. Ages 3 – 6.

VanCleve, J. (1999). Janice VanCleave’s play and find out about bugs : easy experiments for young children. New York : J. Wiley.  Follow this link to SWAN.

50 experiments and activities which combine scientific exploration with ideas for creative/imaginative play.

Janice VanCleave’s Play and Find Out about Bugs, does a good job of combining scientific exploration with creative and imaginative play. With 50 experiments and activities, along with instructions for adults and care givers, this book will provide hours of enjoyment. This book is a great introduction for future scientists. Ages 3 – 7.

Voake, S. (2010). Insect Detective. (C. Voake, Illus.) Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This book will entertain as well as inform young readers about the insect world around them.

Steve and Charlotte Voake do an impressive job of creating an informative picture book. Insect Detective is deceptively simple using straightforward words and attractive illustrations to craft a book that can entertain as well as inform young readers about the insect world around them. This book is a great first step into the world of informational books. Ages 3 and up.

Bug Finders was June 22-23, 2012!
June 21, 2012, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Bug Finders

The first Nature Works program of 2012 took place on Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23 (10 a.m. to noon at Wonder Works both days).  It was about one of my favorite topics — bugs!

Here’s what we said about it in advance:

Like each Nature Works program, there will be some real nature, some fantasy nature, a nature craft, and lots of nature books to read and perhaps borrow from your local library.

The real nature will include live and preserved bugs, including some you can touch. Some of the live bugs will be crawling in containers of dirt.  You can help me catch them, take a closer look, and turn them loose again.  Go here to see a preview of bugs in the dirt.

The fantasy nature will include plastic bugs turned loose in the Wonder Works Great Outdoors exhibit for you to find and pretend to catch.  (They may be hard to find but won’t be hard catch, since they aren’t really alive!)

The craft will be a bug collage that you can make-and-take with help from Wonder Works staff and volunteers. The collage will use bug stamps and stickers, glue-on paper plants, and more.

The children’s bug books will include library books selected by Shira Belenke (former Wonder Works Education Director, future librarian) plus some books from my family’s collection. (My son, Ethan, has been big on bugs for 15 of his 17 years. I’ve been interested in insects for more than 50 years.)  We’ll post a book list soon, with links to SWAN, the online catalog used by many suburban libraries.

Hope to see you at Wonder Works this weekend!

Eric Gyllenhaal

Go here to see photos of the set up we used for Bug Finders.

Bug Finders: Fireflies
June 4, 2012, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Bug Finders

If you want to be a Bug Finder, you should stay up late enough to see fireflies at least once or twice each summer.

A friend who lives in LaGrange just saw her first fireflies of the summer.  She saw them in her garden on Tuesday night, June 2.  I just checked our block — no sign of fireflies so far in this part of south Oak Park.

When will you see your first firefly of 2012?  Please tell us when you do (using the “Leave a Comment” option, below).

NOTE added June 20, 2012: Last night I finally saw my first backyard firefly of 2012!

(However, I just got back from a long trip out of town, so they may have been flashing out back for a week or more before I got to see them.)

Here are some websites with more information about fireflies:

Bug Finders: Bugs in the Dirt
June 2, 2012, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Bug Finders

If you want to be a Bug Finder, you should dig in the dirt — or at least turn over rocks so you can see what’s in the top layer of soil. At our house we have a rock garden that’s mostly for finding bugs. There are some plants for decoration, but mostly the garden has rocks that the neighborhood kids can turn over when they want to find bugs. So, what do you find if you turn over rocks like the ones in our garden (shown below)?


Sometimes you’ll find pillbugs, crawling bugs that roll up into pill-shaped balls when you bother them:

If you wait patiently, the rolled-up pillbugs will unroll, and you can see the legs they use to crawl. (The legs wriggle so much that is makes the photo look fuzzy.)


Sometimes you’ll find pillbugs snuggled up with other creatures, like these pale, legless slugs. Slugs aren’t bugs, and they aren’t worms — they are a lot like snails, but they don’t have a coiled shell like most snails do.

Sometimes you’ll find shiny, worm-shaped millipedes. Millipedes have hundreds of tiny legs, but you can’t see them unless they are turned upside down or sideways.


And sometimes you’ll find ants — lots of ants! These ants are protecting white things that look like grains of rice. The white things are cocoons, where sister ants are growing from white grub-shaped babies into ant adults.


Maybe you find bugs like these under rocks in your garden, or maybe you find them when you dig in the dirt around your home. Or maybe, like many kids, you don’t have rocks you can turn over or places you’re allowed to dig.

If you want to see bugs like this — and many other types of soil bugs, worms, and slugs — you can come to our Bug Finders program on June 22 and 23, at Wonder Works in Oak Park. We’ll have bug- and worm-filled dirt where you can dig and touch the bugs. Even if you don’t want to touch live bugs, there will be lots of other buggy things to do. Go here to read more about this and other Nature Works programs:


To learn more about pillbugs, try this website (sorry about the ads):

This web page has information about slugs:–_Original_Storie/Slugs_Have_No_Backbone/slugs_have_no_backbone.html

Go here to learn more about millipedes:   OR

This website has ant life cycle drawings that you can color. One is a pdf file you can print out:
The other you can color online:

Bug Finders: Milkweed Flower Buds and a Milkweed Beetle
June 1, 2012, 11:49 am
Filed under: Bug Finders

If you want to be a Bug Finder, you have to start looking closely at plants. Common Milkweed plants here in south Oak Park are starting to form their flower buds (like the ones below).  That means it’s time to start searching for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, Milkweed Bugs, and other sorts of milkweed insects. Scroll down the page to see what I found today.


I looked at the undersides of leaves on nearby milkweed plants, and this is what I found: A Red Milkweed Beetle!  If you pick one up and hold it close to your ear, you can hear squeaky sounds the beetle makes by rubbing its jaws together.  To some folks it sounds like singing, which gives this beetle its other common name: The Singing Milkweek Beetle.

Wikipedia has more information about this beetle:

To find milkweed near you, start checking streetside gardens in your neighborhood. When wild milkweed takes root in their gardens, many gardeners let it grow.

If you like finding bugs, be sure to come to our Nature Works Bug Finders program at Wonder Works on June 22 and 23, 2012. Go here to read more about this and other Nature Works programs: