EYFS: Understanding the World—children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes.
KS2 Science Yr 3: Plants Pupils should be taught to:
Explore the part that flowers play in the life cycle of flowering plants, including pollination, seed formation and seed dispersal.
KS2 Science Yr 5: Living things and their habitats Pupils should be taught to:
- Describe the differences in the life cycles of a mammal, an amphibian, an insect and a bird
- Describe the life process of reproduction in some plants and animals.
KS3 Biology Reproduction in plants
Write a persuasive letter to your headteacher asking whether the school could create a wildflower meadow in part of its grounds, or to a local councillor requesting that roadsides remain unmown to provide additional forage for bees in your area.
Set a design and technology project for your students. Honeycomb is formed of hexagons because the shape combines strength and spatial efficiency. Can students make a structure from cardboard hexagons that will support a house brick? Two bricks?
Art and design. Learn about threats to bee numbers in the UK. Can pupils design a poster to encourage local gardeners to save the bees?
Bee activities and games
Bee wild survey
Get outside your classroom into the school garden or local park on a sunny day. Measure out an area, for example, 5mx5m either using a tape measure or by pacing it out. How many different colours and shapes of flowers can they see within this area? (Even areas of grass can contain a surprising number of flowers.) Encourage pupils to spend 5 mins or so watching one particular flower. How many bees visit that flower during this time? This activity is great for outdoors maths lessons using formal and informal measures; surveying and counting.
The Waggledance challenge
Take the class outside and split into smaller groups (6-8 pupils works well). Each group are worker bees who have just found a rich new source of nectar near a prominent landmark in the playground or local park. They need to communicate the location of this landmark to the rest of the class using the medium of interpretive dance! Pupils will need to work together and to think about different ways of demonstrating direction and distance using simple movements. (They cannot simply lead the other pupils to the location: that’s cheating!) Give groups 10 minutes or so to develop and practise their dance before performing it to the rest of the class. Can the other groups work out what the performers are trying to say?
Discuss the role of guard bees in protecting the hive’s honey stash. These bees are stationed at the entrance to the hive to check that only members of their own colony gain admittance. They recognise members of their own colony by smell. How well can student’s noses detect different smells? Provide each pupil with a paper handkerchief which has been treated with 3 drops of a distinctive scent. Three different scents works well for a class of 30. Use drops of essential oils or food flavourings such as peppermint, lavender, almond or rose. (CHECK RE ALLERGIES IN ADVANCE) Now get pupils to identify other members of ‘their’ colony by sniffing the handkerchiefs and clustering together with other students who have the same scent. Would they make good guard bees?
Choose a flower that is locally abundant (dandelions work well) and demonstrate that pupils can collect pollen by gently rubbing a cotton bud onto the stamens (usually in the centre of the flower). If they move on to another dandelion and repeat the process they are acting like bees on a foraging trip. As pollen is being collected from each new flower, some is also being dropped off and the flowers are being pollinated.
Pupils will be able to see the yellow pollen that has collected on the cotton bud. Experiment with different flowers. Can your class find a flower with non-yellow pollen like a poppy? (Make sure that you use cotton buds made from paper not plastic and remind pupils not to drop them in the playground or park: use a bin!)
You can also collect pollen using an electrostatically charged balloon (i.e. a balloon that has been blown up and charged by rubbing it on a sweater: demonstrate the charge by showing pupils what this does to their hair). The hairs on bees legs carry tiny electrostatic charge that attracts pollen.
There are lots of suggestions for bee-related activities online. Take a look at:
And some of our favourite bee books for younger children
Flight of the Honeybee (Nature Storybooks 2013) by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
The Bee Book (Dorling Kindersley 2018) by Charlotte Milner
Why do we need bees? (Usbourne 2017) by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Christine Pym