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Moving Pollen

In this activity, students play a tag-like game to learn the process of how plants become pollinated.

Pollination occurs when insects and other pollinators feed on nectar from flowers. There are roughly 200,000 varieties of living pollinators in the wild, most of which are insects. Other animals such as birds, small mammals, and bats can also help with pollination.

As pollinators reach for the nectar in flowers, they rub against the pollen and it often sticks to them. As they move between flowers, the pollinator brushes off onto other flowers. This is a strategy plants use for pollen to travel and fertilization to occur, since plants are rooted in place.

Pollination plays an important role in our everyday lives. It has a particularly great effect on the variety of food that we have available to us—apples, berries, chocolate and peanut butter are all by-products of the work that pollinators do. In fact, over 80% of the living flowering plants rely on pollinators for their survival.

Objectives

  • Describe how pollen is transferred by pollinators.

  • Describe the importance of pollinators in nature.

Materials

  • Per Class or Group:
    2 hula-hoops or string (to make 2 circles – these represent flowers)
    small balls to represent nectar
    yellow and orange sticky paper notes to represent pollen

Key Questions

  • Who are the most effective pollinators? The students with the most post-its on them or the least?

What To Do

  1. Divide students into two groups, 1 smaller and 1 larger.
  • Provide 10 sticky paper notes to each student in the smaller group. The papers represent pollen that gets stuck to pollinators as they move from flower to flower.
  • Students in the larger group represent the pollinators. Pollinators visit different flowers in search of nectar.
  1. Set up the hula-hoops on opposite sides of the playing area, at least 20 metres apart.
  2. Place half of the balls of nectar or pieces of paper in one of the hoops, and half of the balls in the other hoop.
  3. Pollinators move the pieces of nectar one at a time from one hoop to the other. These students can be given challenges as they move back and forth (skipping, hopping on one foot etc.)
  4. Students with the pollen stand around the hoops and try to stick their papers to the pollinators.
  5. Continue until all the “nectar” has been moved to the other hoop.

Extensions

  • What happens when pollen is transferred from one flower to another? Introduce a diagram of the parts of a flower.

Other Resources

U.S. Department of Agriculture | Forest Service | Pollinators

Missouri Botanical Garden | Biology of Plants

Xerces Society | Pollinator Conservation

Seeds of Diversity | Protecting Pollinators

VanDusen Botanical Gardens | Learn