My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pollinator Play

One of my most challenging and fun jobs this summer was to present a weekly hour-long program on pollinators to the Paiute Indian Summer Children's Program. I had to be ready for up to thirty students whose ages ranged from five to perhaps fifteen. The population and numbers of kids changed each week and I had a hard time finding activities that would interest everyone and fit the numbers I needed to make for a successful game. I planned to let the kids collect bees, flies, beetles and butterflies and view them in a collection jar, but found we had no pollinator habitat on the grounds.

The first week the program was on bumblebees. I brought a few of my collected bees to show them and gave them a little booklet that they could use to identify local bumblebees.  We listened to The Flight of the Bumblebees and watched a video of bees in their nest. Then we had a bumblebee hive relay race where the "bees" had to collect pollen from one flower, give pollen to a second flower, then collect more pollen, before running back to the hive, delivering the pollen,  and  then spreading the smell off the flowers to the next bee.

Discussing bumblebees and their role in pollination

A bumblebee waiting for the start of the race

A "bumblebee" collecting pollen
 The next visit was about butterflies. Our activity was to play rock, scissors, paper with the winners getting to go to another life stage, and finally become an egg again.

Reviewing the rock, paper, scissors game

Practicing the poses for the different life stages of butterflies

Playing the butterfly game
Winner gets to advance a life stage looser has to find another butterfly in his life stage and play again

We made an  origami  butterfly after reading some butterfly facts and looking at pictures of butterflies. The kids loved finding out that butterflies have to stick their feet into their food to taste it.

Giving a little help

This seemed to be the most engaging of the activities we did

Even young children were able to make most of the folds
 At our next meeting, we learned about hawkmoths and how they work through the night to pollinate moonflowers.  We read The Moonflower
A wonderful book about nighthawks
Then I handed out a "probiscus" to each child and we went out to collect pollen from our "moonflowers" which were paper cups tied to the fence. Two of the children were hawk-eating bats and could only walk up to the "moths" and eat them by tagging them with a sticky note. On this day, I had mostly very young children and many of them needed help to get pollen on their probiscus. Then they couldn't pay attention to the approaching bats so all got eaten at least twice.

The blowers have double-faced sticky tap on their ends and they are supposed catch pollen on them

A feeding hawkmoth getting eaten by a bat.
 Since the children enjoy making things the best, I designed a Build a Flower for Your Pollinator activity. I presented a short slide show that matched different pollinators with their favorite flower shapes and colors. Then each child got to make a flower that their pollinator would like. Some of the kids made free form flowers and others formed them on a background paper.

Flower Work
Kids, flowers and my thank-you card
On that day, the only other volunteer here at the time decided to come with me to the workshop so she could also buy groceries. She and the lady that runs the program are in the back row.

For my last day with the kids, we learned the Pollinator Song, then made bee or bat hand puppets using templates and paper bags.

For sure, I learned something and had fun and when I reviewed with the kids, I found they had learned a lot also.

On a personal front, I'm madly making lists, and piles of stuff, ordering in what I still need, and rushing to finish pinning bees. Thankfully, I can pin a batch of bees while relaxing in front of the Olympics. Don't know what I'd do if I had to add that to my day work.