Assistant professor Faith Weeks spends her days surrounded by creepy-crawlies.
She loves it.
“It’s amazing what they can do. These guys are absolutely fantastic,” she says. “They’ve conquered everywhere in the world. They can handle things that we can’t.”
Weeks knows the value of bugs’ existence, in the ecosystem and the classroom.
“If humans weren’t here, nature bounces back,” she says. “If insects and arachnids weren’t here, so many things would be gone. We wouldn’t have the produce we do. We wouldn’t have decomposition like we do. A lot of pests would be around because their predators are gone. Who would pollinate the plants?”
Weeks primarily teaches pre-service science teachers, and she uses her large collection of beetles, scorpions and praying mantises—among others—as much as possible.
“I always bring live things into my elementary ed classes, primarily because they don’t have any experience and get freaked out,” Weeks says. “I am running a study where I bring insects in and I see how much [undergraduates] can understand the role of them in the ecosystem and if they eventually feel more comfortable with [the insects]. So far, the research has shown that students are more comfortable [after exposure]. They’re less likely to kill them, and they’re much more likely to incorporate them into their teaching.”
Weeks has more than one real-life example of her success. One of her favorites is a current grad student.
“She has been coming to my lab since she was an undergrad,” Weeks explains. “At first she was terrified of tarantulas. Then she started coming to my lab more. Now she asks me, ‘How are my kids today?’”
“The first day, she almost shrieked and ran out of the room. And now she’s trying to convince her mom to get one as a pet.”