The Naturalist Outreach Program acts as a ‘Speakers Bureau’ to send Cornell undergraduates and graduate students to local classrooms and community groups to talk about the natural history, ecology, and behavior of animals and plants. By presenting lively, enthusiastic, well-grounded, and age-appropriate, science-inquiry based presentations, we work to open the world of backyard biology to young people, enrich local 2nd – H.S. science instruction, and simultaneously train Cornell students to communicate effectively about science. The Naturalist Outreach Speakers Bureau is a response to the national need for attracting students into science, for scientists who can communicate the value of their work to the public, and the need to enhance appreciation for the environment.
When I began teaching ‘Spider Biology’ at Cornell University forteen years ago, I knew that spiders were appealing animals with interesting biology and behavior, but I did not have a clue that spiders verge on the magical to so many people. My course, ‘Spider Biology: Life on a Silken Thread’*, has become quite popular, in part because I am an award winning teacher, but in large part because spiders and their relatives are so intrinsically fascinating. Spiders evoke a combination of interest, horror, and curiosity in people of all ages. Because there is so much intrinsic interest in spiders, they have turned out to be excellent creatures to use to entice children and adults into learning more natural history and biology. I have often thought of spiders as ‘hooks’ into science.