Beneficial Bees (PreK-5)
Students explore bees as pollinators and learn about reasons their population numbers have been declining in recent years. They write a letter or create a handout to teach others how to help bees through planting native species.
Adapt this one-period lesson plan for any grade level and follow it with a simple and powerful service project before or on Earth Day. The reflection brings learning and service impact together.
The learner will:
- research the part bees play in the reproduction of plants through pollination.
- discover the importance of bees to our food supply.
- learn about why bees are struggling to thrive.
- student copies of Reproduction in Plants handout
- copy of the PowerPoint slide show to facilitate this lesson (below)
- website references below
Use the attached PowerPoint to guide classroom discussion.
What can your students do at home to support the bees?
Students reread their own quick write from the Anticipatory Set. In small groups they discuss the following questions:
- How has your perception of bees changed?
- What did you learn about bees’ role in the reproduction of plants?
- How can your actions towards bees change others opinions?
- What are other problems in our community that you want to work to fix?
Amazon (2014). Bee & Me book. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Bee-Me-Elle-J-McGuinness/dp/1449443710
Environmental Protection Agency (2016). Colony Collapse Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder
TED Talk (2013). Why are bees disappearing? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/marla_spivak_why_bees_are_disappearing?utm_content=awesm-publisher&utm_medium=on.ted.com-static&awesm=on.ted.com_MarlaSpivak&utm_campaign=&utm_source=pinterest.com
University of Illinois Extension (2017). Facts of the Case: Flower Parts. Retrieved from http://extension.illinois.edu/gpe/case4/c4facts1a.html
YouTube (2014). Why Do We Need Bees? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CxCTyxRFh0
Anticipatory Set: (5 minutes) Trigger prior knowledge and emotion to care about bees with the following Quick Write:
Display a picture of a bee on a flower. Tell students to take out a piece of paper and write for five to ten minutes about this picture. They may write about a memory that it brings, about how it makes them feel, make a list of words and emotions, or write about something they already know about the picture. Have them save the writing for later.
Research the part bees play in the reproduction of plants through pollination.
Discover importance of bees to our food supply. Learn about why bees are struggling to thrive.
Middle School/High School:
- Watch a 15-min. TED talk “Why Bees Are Disappearing” by Marla Spivak. Link
Going Further: Students may read about colony collapse disorder at this EPA website. Link
Discuss details of the video, readings, or book. Ask, “Why are bees important?” and “Why are bees struggling to survive?
Discuss Factors for Colony Collapse Disorder (from EPA website):
- Pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control.
- Stress bees experience due to management practices such as transportation to multiple locations across the country for providing pollination services.
- Changes to the habitat where bees forage.
- Inadequate forage/poor nutrition.
Help students recognize that their actions can make a difference. Connect the welfare of bees to students’ lives and the community. How can philanthropic action bring social change?
Middle School/High School: Make a class list of things that may help bees thrive.
- Working in small groups, students write arguments from the point of view of organizations that wouldn’t like the proposed changes for the sake of bees (chemical company).
- Discuss how this opposition affects society as a whole. For example, a company that creates a pesticide may oppose regulations on chemicals on crops. While changing these chemicals may affect crop yields, not having enough pollinators will affect crop yields too.
- Brainstorm as a class the types of plants with flowers that may use bees for pollination.
- Talk about how life would be different if there were no bees around.
Take action to empower students to help bees thrive in your community by addressing the problem of inadequate forage/poor nutrition.
Option 1: Students write a persuasive letter to their principal or parents asking for permission to plant bee-friendly plants.
- Students brainstorm reasons why someone would want to have bees around.
- Learn the parts of a persuasive letter.
- Students write their letter and peer edit with each other.
- Send the final copy to the person they wrote it to on Earth Day.
- Going Further: If you can find funds and get permission, plant a few species around your school.
Option 2: Students create a handout informing and encouraging the community about planting species that will help pollinators in their area.
- Students research plants native to your area that are a good source of food for pollinators. Your local parks department or the soil and water conservation district are often good sources of information in this field.
- Make a chart of plants, where they grow best, and how to care for them.
- Each student chooses a plant and creates a handout about the plant and its care, and describing the importance of pollinators in your community.
Have a lily or other type of flower sitting at the front of the class with a magnifying glass beside it for students to examine as they turn in their assignment. It is beneficial for them to see the parts on an actual plant as well as on the computer.
Read about the service-learning project called Pollinator Garden by first grade students from Manchester Elementary School in Indiana who were taught using this Beneficial Bees lesson to guide student learning and action.
“I feel that the ultimate goal of teaching is to guide students to become good citizens and compassionate human beings,” said Ms. Fisk. “I care deeply about our world and the animals, so this was my way of getting my students thinking about their impact on the world.”
Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
Benchmark E.9 Identify the "commons" in the school and neighborhood.
Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
Benchmark E.9 Describe how philanthropic activities can bring about social change.
Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
Benchmark E.1 Explore and research issues and present solutions using communication tools.
Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.