Interactions between plants, insect herbivores and associated predators represent the majority of terrestrial biodiversity. Insects are vital food sources for many other organisms and provide important ecosystem functions and services including pollination, waste removal and biological control. We propose a complete and reproducible education programme to guide students to understand the importance of managing and conserving forest ecosystems in their region through the study of insect ecology and natural history. Our programme involved lectures, workshops and field surveys of insects with a group of 60 high school students in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia). It addresses the key stages of an entomological research project including: 1) general entomological knowledge and understanding the role of insects in terrestrial diversity and in ecosystem functioning and services; (2) the proposal of simple research questions including hypothesis development and evaluation using scientific literature, 3) fieldwork using different types of light traps; 4) sorting and identification of the insect orders using simple diagnostic keys and illustrated plates; 5) analysing and interpreting the results and 6) demonstrating findings to peers and a public audience. Identifying insects, exploring their natural history and understanding their functions in the field bring the students towards a better understanding and awareness of the importance of forest ecosystem conservation.