SOMERSET, Wis. -- Bell Museum of Natural History educator Erin Rupp unpacks her crates, checks on the contents and heads into Stacey Helders-Pevan's first grade classroom at Somerset Elementary School.
She is greeted like a rock star.
It could be because the students think it's cool to have a guest or it could be because of what Rupp is carrying in those crates.
Before she gets to that, Rupp first asks the students to report back on the cargo she left behind two weeks earlier. "Hissing cockroaches, it's true," she reminds them.
"We fed them Cheerios," offers one student. That didn't go so well but the bugs did go for grapes and dandelions. The PVC pipe-racing event, not so much.
Feeding the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and observing other behaviors is part of a residency program the Bell Museum offers to schools.
"The cockroaches stay with us for four weeks," said Helders-Pevan, who began looking for ways to bring the museum experience to the school when it got too expensive to transport students to the University of Minnesota, where the Bell is headquartered.
It turned out to be a better option. "It's hands on. It's something they would never get to do, even if they traveled to the museum," said Helders-Pevan.
Not only do students get to host the cockroaches for a month, Rupp visits every first grade class several times during the residency, bringing new critters for students to observe.
"Ooooh," they scream as Rupp pulls out a large hermit crab. While the crab is only there for the morning, students still get to touch it and learn about it.
Rupp also shows off a four-inch Bat Cave Cockroach and her grand finale for the day, a female Chilean Rose-Haired Tarantula, which turns out to be first grader alyssa McGlade's favorite for the day.
"Because it's big and it has eight legs," she explained.
The Bell Museum of Natural History offers a variety of programs for elementary through high school levels. You can learn more at Bell Museum of Natural History.
"The kids just love it," said Helders-Pevan. And they're already looking foward to the next visit. Guests for the day? Honeybees.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved.)