FOR KIDS : Class Gives Bug-Eyed View of Insect World

If your children ask: "Why do spiders have more legs than flies?" or "Do ladybugs ever bite?" they might be candidates for the Bug Brigade.

Pierce College Community Services' five-week course for 4- to 7-year-olds can help deal with a child's seemingly innate interest in bugs without forcing the parent to actively collect or handle the multilegged creatures.

Bug Brigade introduces children to a wide range of bugs and their lifestyles. Instructor Kathy Chase-Grossman blends the facts with fun activities, such as craft projects and making bug cookies out of dough.

The class acquaints children with several types of bugs and gives them a chance to study insects up close and in their natural environment. Chase-Grossman helps the children make worm farms and conduct sow bug experiments, comparing notes on which types of food are snatched by the bugs.

The children go outside to study ant trails and talk about ant colonies, and they learn about the life cycle of the honeybee, sampling honeycomb and bee pollen. They even study basic bug anatomy: Chase-Grossman helps the youngsters label the head, thorax and abdomen on a diagram.

"A lot of the kids come from families where the parents say: 'Don't touch that bug' or 'Don't step on that bug,' " says Chase-Grossman. Maybe it's a result of city living, she says, but she hopes the class helps the children become a little bit more comfortable in a bug-filled world.

Why are kids interested in bugs? Chase-Grossman says it's a fascination that something so small and grotesque can do such human-like things. "You can watch a spider stalk its prey or a praying mantis feed itself, and some look like amazing aliens from outer space."

For more information on "Bug Brigade," offered once a week from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, from Monday to March 27, call (818) 719-6425. The fee is $22 plus $5 for materials.

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