How much time do you spend thinking about bugs? Have you thought about how they’ve changed the world? Sarah Albee has.
The first time I spotted the book Bugged: How Insects Changed History, I was fascinated. In it, Albee recounts notable events in world history that were caused by insects. Did you know insects were responsible for the Louisiana Purchase? (Really, too many of Napoleon’s soldiers died from yellow fever and malaria for him to be interested in keeping the land around Louisiana, so it became a bargain.) Needless to say, bug-borne diseases are an important way bugs have influenced history, but they can also be more helpful. Think of the influence of silk (and the Silk Road trade) on Asia, or the benefits of insects as a protein source across time. Here’s a trailer to give you the flavor of the book—so to speak.
Sarah Albee’s books speak loud and clear to middle schoolers and others who enjoy learning what she calls the “skeevy” parts of history.
From a creativity perspective, I love the way Bugged looks at history through a different lens. It spurs students to ask new kinds of questions about history, and to think about the influences on the human story in more varied ways. (If you think these are varied, you should see Albee’s earlier book, Poop Happened!)
Wouldn’t it be interesting to have students think about another lens through which to view historical events? What if they were challenged to pick something—fire, grass, rain, worms, you name it—and try to find three times that thing influenced history? It certainly would be a fine exercise in questioning, and in looking at history in more flexible ways. Imagine a display or event in which students share their unique perspectives on things that influenced history. Watch history come alive and see what happens! I’d love to hear if you try it.