Pollinating!! The Bees Have It!!!

31 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT describe the process of an apple blossoms pollination.

Big Idea

Plants and animals are very dependent upon one another for survival in the environment. This lesson will offer students a strong visual in seeing how this works.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

Brown paper sacks (one per student)

Flower cut out (allow the children to cut out and color before the lesson)

Small bag of Cheetos

Small container with powdered sugar

Spray bottle with water

I use this webpage as a guide post for this lesson. It is an amazing site and full of great information for me as my own background knowledge.


5 minutes

Teaching about the cycle of the apple from seed to fruit is not an NGSS standard, however, the community I live in, is known worldwide for the apples we produce. Therefore, it is expected that students will learn about the apple and it's importance to our community and commerce.  It is a natural fit to teach not only about the social side of the fruit, but the scientific side as well.  Hence this unit.  

"I want to share something with all of you.  I know you are going to know some things about this, but let's just watch this for a minute and then we can talk."  

I show the video clip of the bees buzzing about in the apple orchard.  This is a few days into a new unit on Apples.  I live in a region that is agriculturally dependent on apples as a commodity. Because of this, my school district has required for years, that we teach this as part of our social studies curriculum.  I love the history of our valley and all that is involved with this social studies aspect. However, I find that there is so much science involved within the unit as well that it is only fitting to integrate the two subject areas together. Not to mention the direct tie to the Performance Expectation of developing a model that mimics pollination of plants.     

After the children have watched the video clip, I turn it off and ask some questions.....

•Discuss the purpose of the bee in the environment. 

•Explain why bees are important to our environment. 
At first glance, these questions may both look as though they are asking the same idea.  But they are not.  The first question asks the purpose of the bee in the environment....I want to activate any knowledge the students gained from the Insect unit prior to this unit.  The second question is not about the purpose of the bee, but what impact does that purpose have on the environment.  I allow the teams to have time to discuss both of these questions and then ring my bell to get their attention.  When the bell rings, all the students finish their conversations and the team leaders stand and share out the conversations.
Answers range from, "Their job is to pollinate."  to "They collect nectar and use it to make honey." Both are correct.  And the response I am looking for is the word 'pollination.' I know the children have heard this word several times during our previous unit.  We used the word often, but I am positively sure they really do not understand the word or what it actually means.
I use a Power Point to keep my students attention to draw their attention to the questions.  I use Power Points most of the time in my teaching. I find that they are very helpful for my ELL students who need extra visual stimulation when we are discussing big concepts.  My ELL students may not always the background knowledge in English to know or understand what I am explaining in English.  However, when a visual is up on the screen, it triggers knowledge they may already have in Spanish or whatever their native language may be.  I also find that all my learners benefit from having the visuals as cues to their learning.  
Understanding the process of pollination is important to the understanding of the apples that grow in our valley.  If the students are not able to understand this essential part of the cycle of the growth of the apple, they will miss a huge part of the learning cycle.  This concept can lay some early background knowledge to understand the Cross Cutting Concept of Cause and Effect which will become important in later grades.  If bees do not pollinate the apple blossom, there will be no apples to grow.  

(I like to embed my video clips into the Power Points I use to teach my lessons.  Just on those off days when the internet is down, I am still able to teach my lesson whether I have connection or not).  


25 minutes

I explain to the children that we are going to make a blossom that will help us to simulate what a bee must do in order to help pollination in our orchards. 

I allow the children time to color and cut out the flower.  This only takes a few minutes because the flower is simple and not elaborate.  The lesson is not about the coloring or even the flower itself.  It is to simulate an apple blossom.  

I show the children how to cut out the center of the flower and explain that this is important because we will need to put our hands through the center of the flower during the investigation.  

After the children have colored and cut out the center, I bring a small brown lunch sack to each child. I demonstrate for them, how I would like them put the bag through the center of the flower.

After each child has this phase done, I will give each team leader two small bowls.  One bowl will have Cheetos crumbs in it and the second bowl will have powdered sugar.  I will have the bowls prepared ahead of time.  I am using these two ingredients for a couple of reasons.  The first is they are safe and I am sure that not one of my children has any food allergies to either of these food items.  Secondly, I want these two items because the colors are distinct and different.  This will become important in just a few minutes. 

Now, I explain to the children that we are going to pretend that our hand is a bee.  The "bee - our hand" will travel from the flower they have made to another flower.  When they travel from flower to flower, we will see what happens.

When all the children have their flower complete, I ask the table leaders to put one teaspoon of Cheetos in two team members bags and one teaspoon of powdered sugar into the other two members bags.  

I spray a tiny amount of liquid on each child's finger tips.  The children will work with their table teams.  This ensures that the children stay in one place in the classroom and do not get too crazy. This is such a fun lesson and so engaging, they tend to get excited.  The more that I can offer to contain them, the better off for all involved.  

The concept is that when their hand goes into one bag, the moisture will adhere to either the Cheetos or the powdered sugar.  When they travel to another flower with a different substance inside, they will have both food items on their hand.  

This is a strong visual to demonstrate how a bee or other pollinator may transfer pollen from flower to flower or plant to plant.   

I distribute the small page to document what the students observe or notice from the investigation.  I want my students to be able to write their observations down and begin to understand the concept of making a claim.  This is something my students have been grappling with for some time.  They are able to tell me what they believe, however, they cannot always back up their thinking.  Communicating observations is vital in science, students should be able to produce domain specific text that demonstrates they can share their observations. (SP8)


10 minutes

In the last part of the lesson, I want my students to think about what would happen if bees were not able to pollinate our apple trees.  What would happen to our community with our crops?  Of course, this will lead into some conversations about possible ideas.  I pose these questions....

  • Do we need honey bees to pollinate our apple blossoms? 

  • What would happen if honey bees did not pollinate our apple blossoms? 

I anticipate there will be a range of answers.  Most children have seen The Bee Movie, and have some concepts of what might happen without the bees to pollinate the world.  I am very curious to hear the ideas they will share.  

In future units, pollinators will come back to our learning and this lesson will add background knowledge to those lessons.