Two Ithacans have created a free new website to draw children into the “fascinating world of insects” and inspire a lifelong interest in our buggy friends.
Insect Interviews was created by Dr. Susan Villarreal, who got a Ph.D. from Cornell in entomology, and her husband Ryan McGuire, an artist/web designer who runs Bells Design.
The site “combines humor, science, and technology to help introduce and teach kids about insects,” McGuire says in a (human) interview with The Voice.
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Here’s a brief Q&A with Dr. Villareal:
Q: What is Insect Interviews?
A: “Insect Interviews is an interactive website specifically designed to capture the attention and imagination of children, while at the same time, teaching them about the fascinating world of insects. It incorporates beautiful and original illustrations, humorous and educational audio interviews with unique insect characters, engaging and informative facts for each featured insect, and links to a number of other cool insect-related resources.”
Q: What makes it different/how does it fill a demand?
A: “Most biology-related children websites are text-heavy, outdated, cluttered, and lack a clear directive. The bright and clean design of Insect Interviews, coupled with a well-developed content strategy, guides visitors through our site, allowing them to fully engage the information without feeling overwhelmed or lost. Because mobile devices are so pervasive, we developed our site to function perfectly across phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.
Q: How did you come to the idea?
A: “The project started as a fun way to do something productive that was separate from my highly technical daily job as a Research Entomologist at Cornell University. As my husband and I brainstormed ideas for Insect Interviews, it evolved into a robust website that allows me to share my insect knowledge with children in a unique and entertaining manner.”
“I had some great biology-related resources as a kid and I understand how important these types of educational tools are for promoting a love of biology. I wanted to make something that was special and that would provide this same type of inspiration for kids today.”
Q: What’s the response to it been like?
A: “The response has been extremely positive. We’ve heard from a number of parents and educators that say Insect Interviews is an excellent teaching tool that doesn’t just entertain, but provides a worthwhile learning experience for young children.”
“The kids we’ve heard from tell us how much they love it, followed by quoting a fun fact they learned from one of our insect interviews.”
Q: How is your web design so nice?
A: “I have to give credit to my husband for the web design. I illustrated the insect characters, but he was able to bring them to life with his graphic design skills.”
“He then took it a step further by designing and developing a custom website to beautifully present the information I wanted to share.”
Q: How much work went into the project, and who is paying for it, and why?
A: “From illustrating, to writing, to designing, to recording interviews, has taken months and countless hours. The project is self-funded because the goal of the site is to provide the community with a free resource to learn about insects and to inspire young minds to explore the possibility of becoming a biologist.”