Education & Outreach: LepXPLOR!

Education & Outreach: LepXPLOR!

Butterflies and many moths are consummate invertebrate biodiversity ambassadors; no other arthropod group captures the interests and affection of the public more than Lepidoptera. These groups serve as gateways to appreciate the natural world [95], and the vast networks of clubs in our region are testament to the immense education and outreach potential for Lepidoptera. All LepNet partners have existing learning programs that can directly use LepNet data, and all will play significant roles in disseminating LepNet products [96]. We will target in particular nontraditional audiences – beyond the university setting – such as community literacy programs, students studying science to pass their high school equivalency, and English language learners. Collaborations with educators/teachers will co-develop learning resources to align content with standards and serve specific needs in the classroom. The innovative Let’s Explore LepXPLOR! Program will offer on-line learning modules that will have as their foundation the importance of natural history collections, biodiversity, and climate change impacts.

A. LepNet Resources & Museum Participation

Our lepidopteran-based Education & Outreach program will take advantage of the extensive resources and programs in place at LepNet institutions. LepNet institutions engage 2.5 million visitors per year and host or participate in 67 programs, including 43 camps and 23 annual events that can integrate new LepNet products. Most LepNet members (85%) have programs serving underrepresented groups. The volunteer force at LepNet collections is impressive, the greatest number coming from community volunteers (n= 3,300), while other members rely on significant numbers of college student volunteers (n = 441/year) and K-12 volunteers (n= 328/year). The educational importance of engaging these volunteers is significantly enhanced through their work with collection staff to engage thousands more people.

All museums will participate in integrating LepNet resources into their respective outreach programs, tailoring educational experiences specific to their outreach mission. For example, collaborations will be made with elementary educators to develop a curricula about butterfly diversity that are also aligned with common core science standards. We will emphasize public accessibility to data about Lepidoptera diversity and host plant associations, integration of image libraries, citizen science opportunities, the importance of collections, understanding environmental impacts, climate change, and biodiversity

B. Let’s Explore LepXPLOR! – A Learning Resource Hub

LepXPLOR will be LepNet’s inquiry-based learning hub, including a suite of novel products that will integrate specimen-based learning tools such as LepSnap andLepXPLOR collection cards in serving K-12 teachers, students, and the general public, as shown in Figure 6. ASU’s outreach specialist Anne Basham will lead these efforts together with PIs and developers at NAU and ASU. The key objective is to foster collection-based pedagogy, aligned NIBA goals [97]. LepXPLOR on-lineinteractive modules will be accessible via the LepNet portal, with objectives matching Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core for K-12. STEM-prioritized cognitive-based skills such as learning to compare and contrast, visual literacy, understanding systems, making associations, communicating data and charts, and forming appropriate conclusions will be key emphases in the program. Learning challenges will include taxonomy matching games, videos with behind-the-scenes collection tours, and hypothesis- and data-based modules on Lepidoptera species and niche modeling. The interactive learning tools used in the resource hub will be developed from the LepNet image library.

B.2 LepSnap Smartphone – The primary aim of the LepSnap project is to engage volunteers. Using the 160,000+ images will be a major educational means for motivating volunteers to image as many specimens as possible. For university students, we will develop hypothesis-based projects allowing them to conduct comparative inquiries within and across species and higher taxa; including questions about the evolution of wing form and function. For classes we will develop several modules that explore form and function of lepidopteran wings and bodies. For all volunteers we will partner with educational programs that incorporate LepNet data (e.g., Citizen Sort, [98].To increase the breadth of impact of our educational efforts, we will develop and disseminate learning resources that will provide access to the LepNet image library, specimen data, and provide citizen science access to the LepSnap app.

B.3 LepXPLOR Cards – The LepNet learning hub will also feature a LepXPLOR specimen viewer and app which will promote direct engagement with 3-D models of digitized collection specimens using a set of 24 augmented reality cards. Our target audience for these tools will be K-12 English language learners (ELL) who have been identified as high risk, with extra resources needed to address the achievement gap in STEM for this group. As of 2013 there were 4.85 million ELL students in the U.S. [103]. Research shows that emerging technologies such as augmented reality can impact academic achievement, decrease cognitive load, and promote motivation and accessibility to academic content for at-risk (e.g., ELL) students [104]. The LepXPLOR cards will address multiple literacies, focusing on spatial/visual literacy skills that are fundamental to STEM learning. They will enhance student understanding of key Lepidoptera characters along with anatomical terms. Students will view geolocation information and access database and other on-line resources. The cards will further teach students about Lepidoptera and their associated host plants as they learn how organisms depend and interact with one other within an ecosystem. The LepXPLOR cards and app will be based on Anne Basham’s current work with the iDigBioLibraries of Life project [99]. Social media will also motivate users in the digitization process while serving as a platform for sharing specimen trading cards, sharing digital badges, or other products.

Pre- and post-assessments will assess efficacy and impact of the online modules, the LepSnap apps, and LepXPLOR tools against predetermined objectives and rubrics on levels of engagement, understanding about Lepidoptera diversity, and key terms and concepts in the life sciences. Professional development workshops and online learning modules will provide teachers tools to implement the materials in their classrooms and who may also serve as contributors to content and lesson plan development. The resulting products will be made available to LepNet partners for implementation in their own outreach programs.

Figure 6 Overview of LepNet Learning Platform and Specimen-based learning tools (LepXPLOR).

95. Kawahara, A.Y. and R.M. Pyle, An appreciation for the natural world through collecting, owning and observing insects. 2012: Cambridge University Press. 138-152.

96. Kawahara, A.Y., et al., A new institution devoted to insect science: The Florida Museum of Natural History, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.Insect Science, 2012. 19: p. 426-428.

97. NIBA, Implementation Plan for the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance. 2014.

98. Opler P.A., K.L.K., and T. Naberhaus. The Children’s butterfly Site. 2011; Available from:

99. Augmented Reality for Public Outreach Working, G., Augmented Reality for Public Outreach Working Group Wiki. 2014.

100. Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network. SCAN Project Homepage. 2014; Available from:

101. North American Butterfly Monitoring Network. NAB-NET. 2014; Available from:

102. Entomological Collections Network, ECN. 2014.

103. Society, L., LepSoc. 2014.

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