Busy Bees

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Students will be able to understand specialized body parts of bees and their role in agricultural science.

Big Idea

Students research bees and how their specialized body parts help them in survival and contribute to the success of plant survival and reproduction.


5 minutes

Using something as familiar like bees helps students start to see connections of plants and animals right away. I told students that they would be starting a unit where the focus would be on plants and animals, but we would be understanding how studying the specialized internal and external parts of these organisms would help them know much more about how they survive and reproduce.

I asked: Are you afraid of bees?  Why or why not? 

I asked this question to help students connect the idea that fear was not necessary, but was a part of what we know to be true about bees. The culture of story telling and trust works well when developing inquiry and dispelling myths about animals and plants.

The room went "up for grabs" as we talked about near escapes of being stung, finding nests accidentally to marveling at the complexity of those hives. They were hooked!  We talked about cartoons where bears raid the honey and how some nature shows show the honey badger diving in and being stung over and over. We talked about bee allergies and how serious that can be. Of course the killer bees subject rolled around into the dialogue and at that point, I showed them an article about UW Whitewater students setting up hives at a local resort that uses the honey and the benefits to populating the area with more bees. I told them it was a concern in Wisconsin that our bee population was down. '

Why is that a concern? I asked them this to get them thinking about connecting bees to the success of our agriculture. 

For fun, I played this video to help them get in the mood for studying bees! A little fun Rimsky-Korsakov was a great way to segue into the next more intense part of our lesson.

Jigsaw Research With Books

35 minutes

I had gathered four at or below grade level (Lexile 800) trade books about bees with the intent that we would rotate them among table groups. as they gathered information from each book. To begin, I asked students to develop a KLEWS chart. in their science notebook by turning it horizontally and creating columns with K (What we know.), L (What we are learning.), E (What is our evidence). W (What we are wondering.), and S (The science behind it.).

I roved the class and answered a few questions to clarify what needed to be listed in the K of the chart. Then, we started a list of what we know about bees on our whiteboard as a whole class. We discussed our list and we honed it down to the things that we know that would be important to talking about how bees either help plants reproduce to what food they produce. 

To begin the research, I first wrote the Driving Questions on the board: Why are bees important to plants?  What specialized body parts help them do this? This question would lead eventually to our essay question for our assignment and connection to agricultural engineering. 

I told them that they would be researching in table teams and jigsawing information from five different trade books. I placed a book at each table team and I told them that they had 10 minutes for each book. I would set the timer and their task was to glean as much information that they could out of a book and take notes about the bee.

I wanted them to keep the driving question in their mind as they read and found facts, adding them to the evidence section of their clues chart. I reminded them that they needed to use skimming and scanning skills to speed up the process. As they were researching, I roved around asking various questions. Some students were amazed at how many times a bees wings beat per minute and chose to use multiplication skills to find out the correct answer based on how many beats were happening per second. Understanding how a hive is built. fascinated some as they read about specialized body parts of the bee that makes it happen. 


20 minutes

Developing the Connection: After everyone had a chance to look at all the books and the researching seemed to come to an end, I gathered everyone around the SB and shared this fun website to add 10 more things to the information they had gathered. We read them aloud together and then turned our discussion to the important question that we needed to address as students returned to their desks.

Why are bees important to Wisconsin Agriculture?

I asked first: What do you know about agriculture? I wanted to be sure all students understood that bees in agricultural science/engineering were both directly and indirectly  I drew attention to the question was pointed to again and I asked: How can we answer this question in an essay by using our class discussion and our notes? How can we use our prior knowledge that we have displayed on the board to argue that bees are important to our agriculture? This set the stage and readied them to write well.

We also discussed other the crops. that specifically grow in Wisconsin. We made another list on the whiteboard and discussed everything from cranberries to how bananas are not a Wisconsin grown fruit. I taught them that each of the plants listed were directly dependent and related to bees. At this point, we talked about alfalfa. It grows nearby in a field near the school, and children noticed it, but didn't know what it was. We talked about  indirect relationships, bees, alfalfa and cows.  

For tonight, I told them that I wanted them to organize their information using Simple Mind app entitling it: Why Are Bees Important to Wisconsin? I wanted them to come up with a good hook that would grab our attention. I wanted them to find three reasons from their research and make a simple web: Title, Hook, Reason 1,2, & 3, and then leave it at that for tomorrow's scientific argument writing lesson.