HIXSON, TN. (WRCB) -- Why are Big Ridge Elementary fifth graders spending their last few weeks of class outside on the Greenway Farms?

They're in search of ladybugs, in the largest ladybug population project ever undertaken, and they're making some interesting discoveries.

Ron Boston is one of Hamilton County's best known elementary science teachers. 

For almost 30 years, his Big Ridge fifth graders have been well prepared for advanced science classes all the way through college. 

His latest group of student scientists, as he calls them, is researching ladybugs for Cornell University in New York.  It's called the Lost Ladybug Project.
"We're just cataloguing," Mr. Boston says. "We have to find 15,000 ladybugs and kids are perfect for it. They don't have bifocals like some people."

For the past few weeks, Mr. Boston's class has left the classroom on good weather days for a field trip to nearby Greenway Farms. 

They've learned where to go and what to look for in their ladybug search.

"Look under leaves, look in dark places," student, Skyler Ellis-Gilliam says.

Once the ladybugs are caught, the scientific work begins. It involves identification, photography and confirmation of species.

"We send them off to Cornell to find out if they're invasive or native," Skyler says. "We might already know."

With the lessons of biodiversity, native and invasive ladybugs, crop protection and disease, Mr. Boston and his students agree, the ladybug project become much more than a standard textbook-driven science class.

"In other schools, they don't get to do this," student, Kadie Horton says. "I'm in school and I'm actually doing it."

The Lost Ladybug Project was established at Cornell 12 years ago.

For the past several years, Cornell has worked with elementary schools across the country to study all the different species of ladybugs.