Why Do We Need Bees?

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SWBAT state 4 reasons why we depend on bees and state what might happen if there were no bees.

Big Idea

Bees and pollination are a vital part of life! What would happen if there were no bees? Let's find out and then make a bee food chain.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description:

Teacher will read the book What if There Were No Bees?  by Suzanne Slade.  The book talks about the interdependence of a grassland community.  It mostly talks about how bees help pollinate flowers and crops and what we wouldn't have if bees were absent from the chain.  Talk will center around the specific  points  the author was trying to make. The students will recall information by making a list of why we need bees.  Then they will create a bee food chain and determine what would happen if bees were absent from the food chain.

Note:  You might "bee" wondering why the girl in the photo is dressed like a bee.  Just to assure you, the class does not dress up like bees!  But this little girl was so inspired and intrigued by the bees that we were learning about that she wanted to dress up like one.  I had to put her adorable angelic face on the cover.  


NGSS/Common Core Connections:

In the NGSS the students are required to know that animals and plants are dependent on each other.  This lesson gets at the meat of that understanding while understanding the main points the author is making--we all depend on bees for so many things!  Also, the students will share their idea with a partner, which supports the standard of working and sharing in diverse groups.  


  • a chain of some sort that you can easily remove a link out of, such as the kind used as a math manipulative or a homemade paper chain
  • Book: Why Do We Need Bees? by Suzanne Slade
  • Why Do We Need Bees? paper worksheet -- 1 per partner group
  • A Bee Chain paper -- 1 per student
  • an Elmo projector, not necessary, but will be helpful when the entire class needs to share the same photo; if you don't have one, you could make copies of page 4 and 5 of the book





20 minutes

I call the children to the corner.  I hold up a plastic linking chain, like those found in math manipulatives.  

Who knows what this is called?  What is a chain used for?  

The children give me all sorts of examples, such as the one on their bike or a chain that their dad uses on the family boat. 

What are each of the individual parts of a chain called?  A girl answers that it is called a link.  I respond, does anyone know why it's called a link?  A bright boy raises his hand to tell us it is called a link since they are all linked together.  

Great thinking!  Today we are going to take a look at a chain, but it is going to be one found out in the natural world. Every member of the food chain is linked together in some way. 

We take a look at the food chain on this website.  It has a great definition.  We click on the link on the page to look at a bigger food chain.

Now let's think back to your bike chain.  It has lots of links on it, they are a different shape than the links on this chain, but still work the same.  What do you think would happen if one of the links were taken out of the chain?

I like to use an example of something they called out and something that most kids can relate to. Probably all of the children in the room can relate to what I am talking about, so a bike chain is a natural choice.

A boy responds that the bike wouldn't work anymore.  He said it happened to him once.

I ask the children if they agree.  They all shake their heads and raise their hands to tell a story about one time when it happened to them.

I try to draw the discussion back to our chain in science.  

Even in nature, each of those links are important. If one link is broken, it upsets the whole system.  Today we are going to learn about what could possibly happen when if a bee was taken out of the food chain.

The book I am going to read will tell about how many things we depend on the bee for and what might happen if we did not have bees.  I want you to listen very carefully because when we are done, I am going to ask you to write all the reasons that you can remember of why we need bees.

I try to give the children a purpose for listening to the book.  It helps them focus plus they know the expectations up front.  

I ask the children what type of book that this is.  We look at the cover and then I quickly flip the pages so they can see them as I flip.  We discuss that even though the book has pictures, it still looks realistic.  They also notice the blue boxes that have extra information in them.  They also notice that each page has lots of real information.  Then I read the book and talk about the concept of interdependence.  Make sure to read the "It's Critical" blue box on each page spread.

When finished, we discuss all of the reasons we depend on bees.

The author was making a specific point about the relationships in nature. What main point do you think the author is trying to make?

A boy answers that many things depend on bees for pollination.  I add, "Yes, bees are important, as a matter of fact they are vital to an ecosystem.  In other words, if we did not have the bee, many things could not survive."



10 minutes

I have the children explore the ideas in the book by writing a list of the reasons why we need bees.

We have learned so many different ways that we depend on bees.  I would like you to think of all of the reasons that we need bees.  Share your ideas with your turn and talk partner.  

Turn and talk partners are classmates who are sitting in close proximity to each other and can share their ideas without a lot of movement in the classroom.  I assign turn and talk partners at the beginning of the year, so we can quickly discuss ideas readily.

The class shares and discusses their thoughts and ideas with their partner.  I feel it is so important to voice your ideas before writing (see reflection).

Then I pass out the worksheet Why Do We Need Bees? paper.  Working with a partner, I have them jot down at least 4  reasons why we need bees (Student Sample --Why Do We Need Bees?). 



10 minutes

I have the children do the explanation part of the lesson.  

I would like each of you to look at your paper and reflect on why we need bees.  I am going to keep a list on the board of all of the ideas that we come up with.  You should be listening to each other so we do not have any repeated ideas.

They each share their reasons why we need bees (see Why We Need Bees video clip).  One girl did a great job explaining the bee food chain (See video clip--explaining how bees affect the food chain).  For possible answers that they children might come up with, click Why do We Need Bees?  If they cannot come up with these answers, I prompt them by reminding them of details that we read to see if I can jog their memory.  I am listening to see that they understand the basic concept of why we depend on bees and what could possibly happen if they were not part of the ecosystem.




10 minutes

 We are dependent on bees for so many things.  The book stresses on the cause and effect relationship of bees on the survival of so many other things.  To get across this same idea, but in a different context, I have the children play the Food Chain Game as a class together.  Then they may also play this game independently during reading workstation time.



10 minutes

For a short evaluation of what they have learned, I have the children fill out the worksheet.  On the Pollination Bee Chain paper they must fill in the food chain involving bees.  You'll notice that the middle section looks blank.  It has been left blank intentionally so the children can draw arrows in themselves.  I feel that drawing the arrows, along with the pictures will help them understand the relationship between them.  You'll notice as you look at the samples that the paper is different than what I used.  I made revisions based on the work that my students had done.  See my reflection for more information.

Isn't the bee wonderful?  We have learned how so many things depend on it for so many different things!  Now I would like to see what you have learned.

 I pass out the bee chain paper.  

This worksheet contains 5 boxes.  I would like you to SKETCH a flower in the farthest box on the left.  What does the flower depend on for pollination that we just read about?  Right, the flower depends on a bee for pollination.  I would like you to SKETCH a bee in the next box over.  Then you need to draw an arrow that starts on the bee and points to the flower.  The arrow shows how these two things are connected.

Now I would like you to complete the rest of the food chain by sketching the animals in the rest of the boxes, like the author did on page 4 and 5. You need to use at least 4 of the boxes to complete your food chain.  There are many different ways you can make your food chain.

I display the book using an Elmo projector so page 4 and 5 are visible.  The children choose one of the food chains and depict it on their paper. They should sketch in each of the boxes. Sketching takes less time but still allows the students to get the idea of the lesson, which is that species are dependent on each other.

Now comes the really important part.  I would like you to pretend that the bee was taken out of this food chain. (The children all sigh....so touching)! Make an "X" over the bee.  Imagine what would happen to the other animals in your food chain.  Write what would happen on the lines below.

I give the children sufficient time to write their ideas.  I check to see that the children are getting this idea before moving on to the next lesson.  I am looking for answers where the child acknowledges the idea that the other animals will be affected, and some on them gravely, if the bee were not in the food chain (see Student Sample 1, Student Sample 2 and Student Sample 3).  In their answer, they should tell about most of the animals depicted on their paper.  If not (Student Sample incomplete), I work with them to help them think about how each member is affected.  

Using this graphic organizer with the boxes and arrows helps them analyze data in order to address the question asked, "What would happen if the bee was taken out of the food chain?" The children are working towards the goal of analyzing patterns in the natural world and making predictions of what might happen based on these observable patterns.  This organizer greatly helped my children see the relationships between the animals.