When most of his peers are sitting in a classroom, looking at a chalkboard, Addison Flanigan and his classmates are out collecting bugs.
Addison is a fifth grade student at Big Ridge Elementary. Under the supervision of teacher Ronald Boston, some of the students at Big Ridge have been collecting ladybugs for the Lost Ladybug Project at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
"It's a very interesting project," Addison said. "I believe this is a much more interesting way to learn about things, and I am proud to come to this school and be taught this way."
The Lost Ladybug Project started at Cornell in 2000. Since 2004, the university has coordinated with elementary schools to survey ladybug populations across North America.
The project allows the children to learn about the importance of biodiversity to the evolutionary process.
"If we just have one species of ladybug, then some kind of disease could come and kill all of that species, but if we have biodiversity, then it could just be harmful to one kind and not all kinds," Addison said.
Boston explained the importance of perpetuating ladybugs.
"Ladybugs protect the crops," he said. "Aphids eat farmers' crops. Ladybugs eat aphids. So ladybugs are definitely an ally for all farmers and agriculture in general."
Boston's students have been participating in the project for three years, but have been "doing it big time" for the past two, he said.
The students have collected multiple species of ladybugs, including two that have not previously been recorded in the state of Tennessee, Boston said. His students were also the first in North America to spot the Brachiacantha quadripunctata specimen.
"It's exciting to find something totally new," he said.
The caught bugs are placed in clean prescription pill bottles, then the bottles are submerged in an ice bucket for five minutes to put the bugs to sleep before a photo is taken. Once the bugs are collected, digital images are taken and sent to Cornell. The bugs are subsequently released and eventually wake from their naps.