Some of our 6th, 7th and 8th grade students had a very unusual experience connecting art with science by taking an up-close look at the Spotted Lanternfly this past fall. If you haven’t heard of this invasive bug yet, it has been spotted in our area of the Poconos (in Pennsylvania) and you definitely want to kill it because its impact will be devastating to our economy and recreation.
Our students learned about the spotted lanternfly as part of an art contest being sponsored by the PA Department of Agriculture. This art contest was asking students to create awareness posters to be included in a calendar for 2020, so we wanted to educate our students about the bug and the impact it has had, and will continue to have, on our economy. This bug originally was spotted in Berks County, PA in 2014 and has been moving into other areas of Pennsylvania, as well as New Jersey and New York. The bug feeds off of fruits such as apples, peaches and grapes and also wreaks havoc on certain trees. The economic impact of this bug will impact farms, the lumber industry, as well as winemakers and the hops needed for the beer industry.
Through social media, I discovered a friend from my younger days was involved in an art project at Penn State-Lehigh Valley that was centered on the spotted lanternfly. We started sharing information about our artistic endeavors with our students and she reached out to me in regards to having our students help with a unique project called, “Spotted Lanternfly Zones of Syncopation” (SFZ). This multi-layered and cross-disciplinary project is being led by visiting artist, Elsabe’ Dixon, in partnership with Penn State Lehigh Valley arts administration degree program and science faculty and staff. The goal of the project is to create a large data map, entirely made from spotted lanternfly wings at the end of their life cycle.
My friend, Elizabeth Flaherty, associate teaching professor of art history, coordinator of arts administration and co-coordinator of the honors program at PSU-Lehigh Valley, is one of the people spear-heading this ambitious project. She was a major player in our students; involvement with this large, collaborative project. She was able to coordinate an opportunity for our students to work with the lead artist in a workshop at our school where students learned how to carefully take the wings off the dead bugs (you freeze them to kill them, yet preserve the wings!), separate the wings by color, and pin them carefully in a circular pattern on the pre-cut templates.
We were fortunate enough to have our local news stations capture this memorable day with our students, which you can check out here:
The final collaborative artwork was unveiled in December on the campus of Penn State-Lehigh Valley and will be a moving art display throughout the region in 2020. I am proud that our students had an opportunity to help create art that promotes awareness about the bug, yet uses its natural beauty to create a collaborative piece that is visually mesmerizing.