Boys and girls alike marveled at the tiny polka-dotted creatures crawling in their cupped hands before setting them loose in the Phoenix Charter School garden.
The 12 elementary school students gathered Tuesday to talk and learn about helpful and harmful garden bugs at the charter school’s “Kids Earth Connect” summer day camp.
Students flitted through the garden capturing about 100 plant-eating cucumber beetles before delivering handfuls of beetle larvae-eating ladybugs at the base of the garden’s plants.
“It was awesome. I had fun,” said Naomi Callahan, 9, of Green.
The ladybug release came during the camp’s Plant and Bug Week. The six-week camp, with a different theme every week, encourages children to collaborate and strengthen leadership skills, said AmeriCorps Earth Connect leader Susan Potter.
AmeriCorps Think Local horticulturist Erin Maidlow, 34, led the ladybug activity, distributing packets of information about the roles insects play.
“All the kids thought cucumber beetles were green ladybugs,” Maidlow said. “What they didn’t know is that they can kill the plants. The ladybugs protect the plants by eating the cucumber beetle larvae.”
The summer camp purchased 4,000 ladybugs from a farmer’s co-op to help the garden grow, Potter said.
The children released 2,000 ladybugs Tuesday. The remaining ladybugs were to be released throughout the week, Potter said.
“It was great seeing kids have fun and work with the ladybugs,” said high school volunteer Vanessa Santillan, 16, of Roseburg. “It’s definitely different. It gives them experience, while doing stuff to help the environment. They learn more when they are doing hands-on activities.”
Callahan spent a portion of the morning after the activity writing a short report about cucumber beetles, complete with a colorful drawing.
“I have fun here. I’m not bored all the time, and I get to see a lot of people,” she said.
This year, the camp formed a partnership with the American Jewish Society for Service-Camp Mountain Chai Kavanah Program. The program brings volunteers, ranging in age from 15 to 24 years old, from across the country to Roseburg.
The volunteers will work with the city of Roseburg, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations, like Phoenix Charter School, on projects to assess and serve the needs of the residents of Roseburg and surrounding communities, according to the project director, Mara Herling.
The group spent time in the garden and will help organize a day to bring in Wildlife Safari animals during the camp’s “Earth Week,” Herling said.
Remaining camp themes include “Earth Week,” “Recycle Week” and “Around the World Week.”
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and firstname.lastname@example.org.