Last updated: June 3, 2015
Day 5 of Biodiversity Bee Week: Pollinators in our World
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Science,Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 60 Minutes
- Additional Standards:
- Next Generation Science Standards:
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems (MS-LS2-1)
- Thinking Skills:
- Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.
What can you do to help pollinators?
• explain different threats to pollinators in the world
• describe one or two actions they can take to help pollinators
• build and/or plant a “bee helper” for their backyards
In the mid to late 2000’s, beekeepers noticed a problem with their bees. Bees were leaving the hives during the day and not returning. Their hives were not thriving. Thousands of bees were dying, threatening the livelihood of many beekeepers and the pollination of thousands of plants, including crops upon which we rely for food. Scientists investigated the die-off of the bees, calling the problem “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). Unsure of the cause(s), scientists collected data on the numbers of bees being lost each year. The numbers were staggering: 2006-07 saw a 32 percent decline in bee numbers, 2007-08 saw a 36 percent decline in bee numbers, and 2008-09 saw a 29 percent decline in bee numbers. There has been an overall decline or leveling off in the percent of bee losses through the years, with the losses at 23.2 percent for winter 2013-14. Beekeepers consider 18.9 percent as a level that is acceptable for bee loss each year in order to sustain their populations (Kaplan, 2014).
We are dependent upon bees for our own survival. Members of the Apidae family (honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, etc…) are the “pollinators of the agricultural world.” Bees are vital to the health of our food supply and also wild plant pollination. Their bodies are covered with hair which allows them to pick up pollen and transfer it from plant to plant to promote pollination. Bees are responsible for pollinating one third of the food that we consume on a daily basis; their loss would mean that our food supply would be dramatically reduced. Also, pollinators are very important for maintaining and creating our wild plant populations, basic habitat for wildlife, and to support crops that feed grazing animals, such as cows (Michigan, 2014; Tucker, 2014).
Currently, bee decline appears to have leveled off, but the causes still remain unknown. There are many theories about the reasons for the decline in bee populations. Ideas include global warming, causing flowers to bloom at different times; loss of habitat and diversity in pollen sources due to development; pesticide use on farms; parasites, such as mites; or perhaps a combination of these factors (Sass, 2011).
This one-week module is designed to expose middle-school students to the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder and to give them background knowledge to help understand this problem. Knowledge is the first step towards understanding and becoming an agent of change to help solve this problem.
Gather materials for building, as described below.
Download lesson plan, then print out and copy the worksheet for each student.
Students will be given information on how they can help pollinators and will build and/or plant a “bee helper” for their backyards.
Printer-friendly lesson plans for all days of Biodiversity Bee Week (a middle school curriculum and activity guide for Bee Awareness).
The instructor will show examples of different types of structures that students can build for bees, birds, butterflies**, or bats. The instructors will ask the students to consider which pollinators would be served by each of the different structures. The instructor will also ask students to speculate on how the house is designed to help a particular pollinator.
**Most research has shown that butterfly houses don’t actually work, so instructors may not want to use them as an example. Robert Snetsinger, an entomologist who conducted research on butterfly houses, suggests “if you want to do something useful for butterflies, build them a mud puddle.”
Part 1: The instructor will hand out papers: “Spread the Word.” While reading through the suggestions, the instructor will ask students to checkmark things they feel they can personally do to help pollinators. The instructor will guide the classroom discussion to show that everyone can help pollinators.
Part 2: Students will choose a particular project to build or plant flowers to help pollinators. Websites are included with plans on how to build different structures for pollinators or learn about growing plants to attract different types of pollinators. The “bee house” plans are designed to attract mason bees. Mason bees are less likely to sting than honey bees and live a more solitary life.
Project 1—Build a “Bee House”:
By web searching “mason bee houses”, the instructor will see many ideas and images to help provide students with ideas on how they can build their bee houses. After completion, the students should be directed to attach their bee houses to the south side of a building, fence post, or tree in their yards or communities. Here are two simple ideas:
Bee House #1: This bee house consists of a block of wood in which students will drill holes into, but not through, the wood. Supplies needed: scrap pieces of lumber, drill and drill bits, hammer and nails for attaching roof.
Bee House #2: This bee house consists of a can filled with bamboo shoots cut to length. Supplies needed: can, bamboo shoots, and a hand saw.
Project 2—Plant Flowers for Pollinators. Planting seeds is an easy and fun way for kids to help pollinators. The instructor may want to keep the plants in the classroom for a while and collect data on different variables, such as days to germination, height, number of leaves, etc. Local greenhouses or gardening clubs are a good resource for information about plants that are bee friendly, and possibly, supplies.
Pollinator friendly plants #1: The Center for Food Safety website includes plants that are pollinator friendly, based upon the season.
Pollinator friendly plants #2: The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) has planting guides for pollinator friendly trees, shrubs, and flowers specific to different regions. Students will need to submit their five-digit zip code to get a free guide to pollinator friendly plants for their areas.
Pollinator friendly plants #3: “Buzz About Bees” is a website with lots of information about bees. This particular page is devoted to plants for bees.
Postcard to Parents
Students will design a postcard to send to their parents asking them to help pollinators, using any of the ideas from their handout.
Download the lesson plan for additional resources and links.
For other education resources, webcasts, and webinars, Pollinator LIVE: a distance learning adventure is a great website, and is sponsored by federal and private partners.
Related Lessons or Education Materials
This is Day 5 of 5 in the Biodiversity Bee Week curriculum for middle school students.