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Explore Nature and SEL with The Love Bugs Short Film

January 30, 2024

Explore Nature and SEL with The Love Bugs Short Film

Journeys in Film shares how the Emmy-winning documentary film, The Love Bugs, provides an exceptional opportunity for you and your students to become amateur entomologists and discover the wonder of small creatures.

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By Amy Bowers

In February, when classrooms are festooned with red and pink hearts, and students eagerly exchange valentines, consider expanding your exploration of the concept of “love” to include curiosity. In Love Bugs, a 34-minute Emmy award-winning short documentary, students learn about the extraordinary lives of Charlie and Lois O’Brien, a couple married for more than 55 years who devoted their lives to amassing the largest individually owned insect collection in the United States, and maybe the world! The film shows the entomologists as they become older,  organizing and packing up their collection of insects (worth over $10 million!) to donate to the University of Arizona, and reflecting on a rich, purpose-driven life. Through Love Bugs, students can enjoy opportunities for exploring nature, love, curiosity and friendship.

Through the film, students will see not only that Charlie and Lois traveled the world together, having adventures in spectacular landscapes, but will also come to understand that this impressive insect collection was made one slow day at a time, poking around next to rivers, lakes or in forests. This passionate curiosity, combined with fortitude and grit, is a welcome lesson to students as they consider what they are interested in and how avid curiosity is a key motivator in developing a work ethic and drive. 

Love bugs promotion

Using Love Bugs in the Classroom

Journeys in Film is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help students develop deep knowledge of global issues and current challenges, mitigate existing attitudes of cultural bias and racism, cultivate human empathy and compassion, and prepare for effective participation in the world economy as informed global citizens. Journeys in Film partners with Share My Lesson on webinars and shares educational content on the Share My Lesson website.

Journeys in Film offers a free NGSS-aligned lesson guide in English and Spanish tailored for educators in grades 3-5. At the front of the guide, you’ll find a free streaming link for the short film. The guide highlights two pathways of exploration. The first pathway considers “The Love of Nature” and teaches students the difference between “bugs” and “insects,” defines what an entomologist is and does, explains how animals are classified by scientists, and sends students into the field (the schoolyard) to “collect” and organize invasive species of insects. 

The second pathway highlights “The Nature of Love” and encourages students to identify what makes a good friend and reflect on creative partnerships. This line of inquiry could be expanded to support the idea of collaboration, a much-needed skill in the 21st century. After completing the field entomology activity in the first lesson, teachers might lead discussions on how we effectively collaborate and what we can do to improve both leadership and collaboration skills.

Educators can pick and choose which sections best serve their classroom needs. A combination might be the best, and of course, educators are encouraged to use this guide as a jumping-off point. Additional activities could include inviting a local entomologist to visit the classroom, to set up a cricket or beetle habitat, or to continue practicing classification activities throughout the year, applying the skill to other objects like plants, toys or even Valentine’s candy.

Hands-on Bug Activity for Valentine’s Day

The lesson’s craft activity leads students through the creation of a beetle-shaped kite. As seen in the film, the exoskeletons of insects vary greatly—from drab blacks and greens to glittery, disco-ball-like surfaces. Students should be encouraged to design a beetle carapace that reflects their vision and aesthetics. As a reflective language arts prompt, students might also cover the exoskeleton with the things they are wildly curious about. Similar to the “map of the heart” project familiar to many during this time of year, this approach asks students to identify subjects they actively want to pursue and builds creative confidence. You could even hang them on a bulletin board titled “I am a curious bug!”

The bug kite activity is available in both English and Spanish on the Share My Lesson website as well as in the full curriculum guides available on the Journeys in Film website.

As we approach the month of love, it is important to remember to harness students' unique interests, passions and curiosities all year long. Who knows where they might lead them? 

Amy Bowers

About the Author

Amy Bowers is a native Floridian living in New Haven, Connecticut. She is a lead educational writer for Journeys in Film and their instructional designer. She has extensive teaching experience in both traditional and unconventional settings at various grade levels and is currently an Adjunct Professor at Southern Connecticut State University. 

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Valentine's Day Lesson Plans and Resources

Love is in the air… for learning! Besides celebrating, exploring and learning about the history of Valentine’s Day, you’ll find this curated prek-12 collection offers an array of free printables, art projects and fun activities that you and your students will fall head over heels for!

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Journeys in Film

The mission of Journeys in Filmis to use the storytelling power of film to help educate our next generation with a richer understanding of the diverse and complex world in which we live.

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