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Race to pollinate!

In this game, students explore how bees transfer pollen from flower to flower. Using cheesy snacks or powdered paint to symbolize pollen sacs, each student has the chance to be a bee and pollinate flowers.

Pollination is a two-way mutually beneficial process between plants and animals. A pollinator comes to a flower in search of nectar to eat, and when the pollinator lands on a flower, pollen lands on their body.

Bees and other pollinators move from flower to flower and continually drop old pollen onto a new flower and pick up new pollen. When they buzz on a flower, they even shake off pollen from their bodies!

When pollinators move pollen from one plant to another it is called cross-pollination. Many plants rely on cross-pollination to develop seeds, so without pollinators we would lose most of our plants too!

Objectives

  • Describe the importance of pollinators in nature.

  • Describe, in general terms, how pollination works.

  • Describe the importance of biodiversity for both pollinators and plants.

  • List a few characteristics of common pollinators (birds, bees, bats, butterflies).

Materials

  • Per Class:
    markers/crayons
    1 large bag of cheesy chips (e.g. Cheetos®) OR use coloured powder paint like Tempera Paint
    pipe cleaners

  • Per Group:
    2 paper bags
    15 cheesy chips
    OR
    1/4 cup powder paint & 15 short pieces of pipe cleaner dusted with powder paint

Key Questions

  • What is pollen, where does it come from, and what does it look like?
  • How are flowers pollinated?
  • How might the shape of a flower affect how easily a pollinator can access pollen?
  • How would the buzzing of bees help spread pollen?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Divide a class of thirty into six groups of five students. (Groups of 4-5 work best for this game.)
  2. Give each group 2 paper bags.
  3. Have each group work together to draw a flower on each bag. They can decide the colour and shape of the petals as a group.
  4. Have students fill one flower bag with 15 cheesy chips  OR the powder paint coated pipe cleaner pieces.

Set-up

  1. Have groups line up on along one side of the classroom. Have them place the filled bags in front of them.
  2. Have them place the empty bags along the opposite side of the classroom.
  3. Review how the game is to be played.

Game

  1. Have each group form a line behind their filled flower bag.
  2. Have the first student of each line take an item from the flower bag and race to pollinate the flower (empty bag.)
  3. Then, that same student should race back and tag the next group member to pollinate the flower (empty bag.)
  4. Have groups continue until the full bag is empty and the empty bags are “pollinated.”
  5. After the relay, have students examine their fingers. The poweder residue is similar to the pollen that bees pick up when they visit flowers. As bees travel from flower to flower, they spread pollen, but some can remain sticking on their bodies.

Extensions

  • Go outside to observe bees in a flower bed. Can you see any pollen sacs?
  • Go outside to examine flowers up close. Can you tell where the pollen is located? Do all flowers seem to have the same amount of pollen?
  • Discuss what the world would look like without pollinators.