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Albuquerque Students are "Buggy" Over Scott Martinico

LAS CRUCES -- Not all college students see spring break as a chance to hit the beach or the slopes for a little relaxation. Scott Martinico saw it as a chance to open children's minds to the world of insects.

While other students were loading their cars with Bermuda shorts and tanning lotion, Martinico, a senior majoring in pest management at New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences , loaded his car with textbooks, lecture notes and bug collections and headed to Albuquerque.

The idea to present an insect program to schools in his home town began a year ago when Martinico helped a friend teaching at Madison Middle School, in Albuquerque, conduct a hands-on demonstration for the children. "I did it as a favor," Martinico said. "And the teacher called me this year to see if I could come back again."

Realizing that other schools might be interested as well, he sent letters to 10 Albuquerque schools, offering to rotate between classes for an entire day. Within 48 hours, his schedule was full. His agenda for the week included visits to Sandia Preparatory School, Marie Hughes Elementary, Hope Christian School, Osuna Elementary and Mark Twain Elementary. He spoke to approximately 1,200 kids from first through 10th grade.

Martinico, a College ambassador and member of the Speaker's Bureau, prepared his own curriculum using notes he'd taken in classes as a guide. "In one class, the teacher was following along in her book while I was speaking, and I was afraid she was trying to catch me saying something wrong," he said. "But when I was done, she told me that I had covered the whole chapter on insects almost word for word." The teacher sent the children to lab early since her lesson was finished.

Younger children molded insects from clay and the older classes learned more about insect biology and management. Martinico also displayed live insects, which proved to be very popular. He let the children touch a Chilean rose-haired tarantula, Madagascar hissing cockroach, giant black millipede and whip scorpion. During recess, the children found insects on the playground and brought them to Martinico to identify.

With the older students, he also did some recruiting for NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences . "I explain the different majors in the College and hand out Get a Job brochures," Martinico said.

Since spring break, he has received about 500 thank you letters from the students. "They sometimes ask more questions in the letters, so I try to find out the answer and write a letter back to their teacher," Martinico said.

He plans to squeeze in two or three more schools in Apr. before his semester is over.