The Pollination Game
Duration: 30 – 40 min (add more rounds to take more time)
Vocabulary: insect, pollination, bee, flower, pollen, nectar
Summary: Students will use Velcro bands to pick up ping-pong balls the way bees pick up pollen from flowers
Objectives: Students will learn about how bees collect pollen from flowers
- Strips of Velcro
- Small discs of Velcro, or strips cut into pieces
- Bandanas or strips of cloth
- Ping Pong balls
Stick strips of loop side of Velcro onto center or bandanas or cloth. These will be tied gently around students’ knees, with the Velcro in front. Stick hook sides of Velcro discs/pieces on to ping-pong balls
Many plants need to be pollinated in order to produce seeds and/or fruit. Pollination is the transfer of pollen grains from one plant to another. Insects like bees or butterflies pollinate many plants. Bees are especially used in agriculture: some farms have their own beehives to pollinate their crops, or have beehives brought in to pollinate. Bees visit flowers to collect nectar, which they turn into honey, and some pollen, which they eat for food. When a bee lands on a flower to do this, extra pollen sticks to the tiny hairs on its body (see pictures below). When the bee then flies to another flower, some of this extra pollen falls off on the new plant, and thus the plant is pollinated!
When bees collect pollen to bring back to the hive and eat, they collect pollen into “baskets” by their knees (See pictures). This is why the Velcro strips are tied to the students’ knees in this activity.
Ask students how many of them like to eat fruits and vegetables, honey, or enjoy looking at flowers. Using background information, explain that almost all fruits and vegetables need bees in order to grow! Explain that many flowers have something called “pollen” (see Pictures section of this document for helpful visuals). As bees fly from flower to flower to drink nectar—a sugary drink, like they would drink juice or Gatorade—the balls of pollen stick to their bodies. Explain that bees make honey from the nectar they collect as part of this process.
Tie Velcro bandanas gently around the knees of students (smaller groups of 5 to 10 students taking turns is easiest, although each student can get one bandana and have ~20 students at once). Spread ping pong balls around and explain to students that the ping-pong balls represent the much smaller balls of pollen on a flower. Optional: cut large flowers out of paper and spread out in open space, with ping-pong balls on top of flower. If you have a blacktop area, try drawing the flowers on the pavement and concentrating the ping-pong balls on top of each flower. This is not necessary but helps drive home that the pollen is located ON flowers in nature.
Explain to students that they need to pick up the balls by bending their knees, and not using their hands, as bees don’t have hands to pick up the pollen either! Ask students what sound bees make as they fly around, and then have them buzz as they run. You can either limit the number of ping-pong balls each student picks up so everyone gets an equal chance, or have a competition to see who can get the most.
Depending on how many students you have, you can repeat this activity multiple times. If the students seem to grasp the activity well so far, try adding other variables like spreading the pollen out further (as if the flowers/trees were farther apart) or make the children run slower as if it were cold outside.
Have students describe how pollen gets on bees. Ask them why pollen and bees are important (needed to get the fruits and vegetables we all enjoy!). Ask them what their favorite fruit is (strawberries, cherries, etc.) to help them really understand that they need bees in order to enjoy these fruits. Ask them if we should be afraid of bees or if bees help us.
Have students do a ‘kid writing’ – draw a picture and write one or two sentences—of bees visiting flowers.
Pictures/Hand-Outs (Click to go)