Z&E Community Engagement

Entomology 2018

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Since 2000 the Department of Zoology & Entomology has mounted several projects that engage with local communities. These have included projects on subsistence vegetable pests in Rhini, through the Umthati Training Programme, and the development of an isiXhosa dictionary of insect names to assist agricultural development work. The latest project involves the development of a Service Learning course in Entomology.

Service learning courses involve students in projects in the community to find out how their academic training matches the needs of the community. The students benefit by seeing how their training matters in the wider world, and the community benefits from the development activity. Entomology has a strong community orientation because of the importance of insects in human, animal and plant health, natural resource management, and even forensic science. This is strongly reflected in linguistic metaphors (such as, ‘busy as a bee’) and cultural beliefs throughout the world. Because man’s welfare is directly linked to the negative and positive effects of insects, there are direct benefits to spreading knowledge about them in any community, and in learning how the community sees insects (and entomologists!). Entomology is therefore apparently well suited to the innovation of a Service-Learning curriculum.

In 2006 the Department was awarded a generous grant under the South Africa-Finland Co-Operation Programme, administered through the Higher Education Quality Committee, to prepare and implement a Service-Learning (SL) curriculum as a strategic, transformative and developmental intervention to assure and enhance the quality of activity in the Department of Entomology at Rhodes University, provide a model for other institutions in the Southern African Development Community (SADEC) region, and contribute to improving the quality of professional entomology in the region. The project was driven by Martin Villet (Department of Zoology & Entomology) and Amanda Hlengwa (Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning).

The course outline comprised four areas: an introduction to cultural entomology; an introduction to qualitative research; an interview-based research project; and a journal-based reflective process. Each of these was associated with a set of learning outcomes. There was reciprocal engagement between the Honours students in Entomology and learners at a series of schools (Ntaba Maria School, PJ Olivier School and Stirling High School) where there was an exchange of information about insects. The Honours students gathered information about the significance of insects in the learners’ very diverse cultures, and the learners discovered how professional entomology can help them to manage the insects in their daily lives. The learners had great fun explaining the names they use for insects, and the discussions were lively.

Closure is a crucial component of the Service-Learning visit that requires active preparation and planning because it shapes the community partner’s memory of the exercise and their willingness to engage with future interactions. In this course it was facilitated by closing with a discussion of careers in entomology, and then producing packets of ‘Sour Worms’ and ‘Slugs & Bugs’ jelly sweets. At Ntaba Maria the class teacher asked if there was anything else the school could have, and we donated the posters that the students had made for the course.

Last Modified: Thu, 16 Jan 2020 11:33:25 SAST