Bugs at the Museum

Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium Programs at the Montana Natural History Center

Thanks to an exciting partnership with the Montana Natural History Center we are able to offer Insectarium field trip experiences at their location on Hickory Street, near McCormick Park. Your class can experience innovative, exciting, and educational programs, all paired with live Bug Ambassadors, using the MNHC classroom and exhibit space.  Offering programs at MNHC allows for partnering beyond classroom sharing too – teachers can schedule a full day of programing for their entire grade level with activities from both the Montana Natural History Center and the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium!

A COVID Update
At this time we are unable to offer programs at the Montana Natural History Center. We look forward to offering these Bugs at the Museum programs again in the future when it is safe and possible to do so. In the meantime, we hope you check out our Distance Learning offerings for a chance to bring the bugs into your classroom virtually!

How it works
Depending on class or grade level size, teachers can choose to schedule a single program or a “double header.” 

Single Programs offered by MBHI are one hour long with extra time available to explore the exhibits at MNHC before or after the program. These programs can accommodate up to 30 students at a time.

Double Header Programs work best for large groups. Large groups would be broken up into two smaller groups of 30 or less in each. In the morning group 1 would participate in a program led by MBHI while group 2 experiences a program facilitated by the MNHC. After a break for lunch, the two groups would flip flop and experience the program that their peers in the other group did that morning. By the end of the day, all of the students will have experienced one program led by the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium and one led by the Montana Natural History Center. 

We are flexible as well – do you have a small group that wants to do two programs in one day, both run by the Butterfly House? Great! Or maybe your small group is wanting an MBHI program in the morning and a MNHC program in the afternoon? Sure thing! Scheduling a program with either just the MNHC or just MBHI is also a great option. Drop us a line with your ideas or needs and we can see what we can do to make them happen for you.

If you are interested in a double header field trip experience we recommend following one of two potential schedules/flows. Please note that while we are happy to offer the outdoor classroom space as a spot for lunch, there are no indoor lunch spots available at the Montana Natural History Center. Please consider the weather when planning your field trips.

Option One:
30 minutes: All students, both groups, explore the MNHC exhibit area
60 minutes: Programing Block 1
30 minutes: All students, both groups, have lunch outside in the MNHC outdoor classroom
60 minutes: Programing Block 2
Total Field Trip Time: 3 hours

Option Two:
60 Minutes: Program Block 1
30 minutes: Group 1 has lunch, Group 2 explores the exhibits
30 minutes: Group 1 explores the exhibits, Group 2 has lunch
60 minutes: Program Block 2
Total Field Trip Time: 3 hours

One hour programs
Programs of up to 10 students: $50
Programs of up to 20 students: $70
Programs of up to 30 students: $90

If you schedule a Double Header Program – two programs with MNHC and two with MBHI – there is a $20 discount off the total cost of your visit: $10 off the Insectarium programs and $10 off the MNHC ones.

Please bring a check or cash with you the day of your program. If you’re doing a Double Header and are participating in programs led by both organizations, please bring separate payment for each one. Please reach out in advance if you would like or need to pay by card. Invoices are available in advance upon request.  Checks should be written out to “MBHI.”

These programs are all held at the Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory Street, Missoula, MT 59802.

These programs are available Tuesday – Friday between 9:30 and 4:00pm. To schedule a single or double header program, reach out to Briana at briana@missoulabutterflyhouse.org. Additionally, we’re always happy to answer questions over the phone at 406-317-1211.

Program Descriptions

Programs being offered at the Montana Natural History Center by the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium are listed below. Each program description includes NGSS standards information as well as the target grade level. Many programs are designed with a specific grade level in mind but can easily be adapted for older grade levels.

Creative Creatures
What would a bug look like if it were perfectly adapted to camouflage with your schoolyard habitat? In this fun and creative program students will practice their observation skills on bugs from around the world that are experts in the art of camouflage, discussing how these traits help them to survive. The adventure wraps up with a chance to design an insect, a brand new species, using leaves and other natural elements from around your school to inspire its camouflage.
Standards: “Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals, including humans, need to survive” (NGSS: K-LS1-1)
Grade: Kindergarten, but also up to 5th grade. Great for groups with a wide age range.

Bug Biomimicry
Description: What kind of inventions can we come up with if we use the bugs around us for inspiration? During each visit students will observe Bug Ambassadors and participate in engineering challenges to prototype an invention inspired by that animal.
Standards: “Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking plant and animal structures and functions that help them survive, grow and meet their needs” (NGSS: 1-LS1-1)
Grade: 1st, but also up to 5th grade. Great for groups with a wide age range.

Powerful Pollinators
Description: Explore pollination from the perspective of the many insects that excel at the art of moving pollen around. We’ll use magnifying tools, real specimens and investigation journals to explore the structures on pollinator bodies that help them in their pollination efforts.
Standards: “Develop a simple model that mimics the structure and function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants” (NGSS: 2-LS2-2)
Grade: 2nd, but also up to 5th.

Aquatic Arthropods
Description: During this program students will discover the fascinating world of the aquatic arthropods with which we share the local rivers and streams. These amazing animals have unique life cycles and fascinating adaptations and traits. Students will pour through bins of river water to observe and sort the nymph stages of caddisflies, stoneflies, mayflies and more.
Standards: “Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death” (NGSS: 3-LS1-1)
Grade: 3rd, but also up to 5th

Habitat Choices
Description: This program is as much about discovering the scientific method as it is about the habitat preferences of our Bug Ambassadors. Students will work together to design and conduct a simple experiment using our roly poly Bug Ambassadors.
Standards: NGSS: 4-LS1-1 and NGSS: 4-LS1-2.
Grade: 4th and 5th

Bess Beetle Lab
Description: Ever wonder just how strong beetles really are? Would your students like the chance to conduct their own experiments? This program brings in elements of math, experiment design and a chance to work with live bess beetles.
Grades: 6th –  8th

Super Spiders
Description: This is easily one of our most popular programs and it’s all about spiders! We cover everything from spider anatomy and feeding habits to how they grow and defend themselves. We’ll meet a wide range of spiders and play a trivia game to dispel some of those troublesome myths about our eight-legged friends. 
Grade: Kindergarten and first graders love this program. It’s also adaptable for older students and groups with a wide age range.

Little Things, Big Jobs
Description: Who runs the world? BUGS! During this fun, hands-on program students will get the chance to learn about three major roles arthropods have in our ecosystem. We’ll talk about the importance of pollination, the balancing act of predation, and the dirty and messy world of decomposition.
Grade: Kindergarten – 4th

For more information about programs being offered by the Montana Natural History Center, click here. Programs offered by the MNHC team include the following topics.

  • Seed Dispersal: Fruit Engineering Challenge
  • Montana Ecosystems and Animals
  • Lewis and Clark: Being Naturalists
  • Outrageous Owls
  • Animals in Winter
  • Bird Beak Bonanza
  • Skull Detectives
  • What’s That I Hear?: Exploring Bird Calls and Nature Sounds

For first grade teachers working on biomimicry in their classrooms we recommend pairing our Bug Biomimicry program with MNHC’s Seed Dispersal: Fruit Engineering Challenge!