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The Birds and the Bees

Why Is Pollination So Important?

Spring time is a fantastic time to teach children about plants and the importance of pollination! Many of us have a mild to extreme fear of bees, but learning about the important work they do can help ease those concerns, or at least make us a little more tolerant.


Did you know?

  • In North America, 75% of our food supply, and 90% of our plants in general, depend on pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

  • Although bees are the most important pollinators, there are many other animals that pollinate such as birds, bats, lemurs, and moths.

  • There are around 2,000 species of pollinating birds.

  • The use of pesticides may impact the population of pollinating species.

  • Most bees in North America don't make honey.


Read this article from the National Audubon Society for more information on why we need pollinating species and how to protect them.



How pollination works


Another interesting thing about pollinators is that they don't visit flowers for the purpose of pollination. This article describes how bees and other pollinators visit flowers for their sweet nectar. While they are collecting the nectar, these animals brush up against the pollen-covered anthers. When these animals move on to another flower, the pollen is transferred to that flower. This transfer of pollen from the stamen of one flower to the pistil of another (the definition of pollination) is what makes it possible for those flowers to produce seeds.



Flower Dissection Activity


If your kids are anything like mine, showing them where the pollen and nectar can be found on a flower may be more interesting than simply telling them. This Flower Dissection Activity is very easy to do and will likely keep them busy for some time!


Step 1. Print this Flower Diagram PDF. For one that already has the parts labeled, click here. This one may be easier for younger children.


Step 2. Label the parts of the flower, or read the labeled parts. Color the flower diagram if you so desire.


Step 3. Find a flower to dissect. Flowers from the Liliaceae (lily) family have very obvious stamens and stigmas. If purchasing flowers for this activity I recommend buying cut flowers ahead of time, so you can enjoy them for a good week or so before the activity, or see if your local grocery store has a discount area for older, semi-wilted flowers. Better yet, cut flowers from your own yard (or neighbors with their permission)! I encourage you to use a variety of flowers; I found it more challenging to label the parts of the flower when I went to a different variety, such as roses and carnations.


Step 4. Dissect your flower, matching the parts of your real flower to the parts on the diagram. Use the blank space to the right to tape or glue your flower pieces to. This will make for a very nice display, but unfortunately can't be kept forever.



Other Plant or Pollination Activities


This is certainly not the only activity you can do to teach your kids about plants! Here are a few of my favorites:


  • Plant a vegetable garden.

  • Plant live flowers, showing your children the parts of the flower before giving it a new home.

  • Go bee-watching! Take along a pamphlet or book like this one and see if you can list the different pollinators you come across.

  • Plant a pollinator garden. Many stores (I found mine at the dollar store!) have seed mixes specifically for pollinators.

  • Have a pollination snack! Throw a few juice boxes or otter-pops into a large bowl. Cover the drinks with Cheetos. Tell your kids to dig through the Cheetos to find the drinks, and comment on how the cheesy powder rubs off on their hands, even though they were going after a different treat. Of course, after this mini-lesson they are welcome to eat the Cheetos!




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