The Ugly Bug Contest is one component of the Oklahoma Microscopy Society (OMS) outreach program, called 'SCOPE. The goal of 'SCOPE is "to promote the awareness and usage of microscopy; as its own science, as an element of scientific literacy, and as a tool for stimulating scientific curiosity and discovery." To that end, we began four years ago to provide hands-on microscopy curriculum units, as well as microscopy videotapes and books,to elementary school teachers in areas where OMS members live and work. As part of the program, a society member is available for consultation and classroom visits and offers a follow-up tour to their own microscopy laboratories. We now have kits in Tulsa, Bartlesville, Norman, Stillwater, Yale, Coyle, South Coffeyville, Pawhuska, Oklahoma City, Perkins, Little Axe, Perry, and Broken Arrow. As demand for the kits increased beyond our ability to fund them, we looked for a project that would allow us to reach many more classrooms. Inspiration struck when we heard about an "Ugly Bug Contest", run by Marilee Sellers of Northern Arizona University as part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science. We adapted her format for a state-wide contest, and in 1997 ran a pilot, inviting 70 schools to participate. Now, yearly, every elementary school in the state is invited to enter in hopes of winning the microscopes and other microscopy learning materials offered as prizes. Enthusiasm from all parties involved in the contest, from the OMS volunteers to the students, runs high and OMS hopes the Ugly Bug Contest will be an annual event for years to come.
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