By Jane Stout
As part of PROBE, the research show-case event at Trinity College Dublin, this year we welcomed sixth class students from four local schools to learn about insects and the jobs they do for us. Through three workshops, the children learned about how bees communicate with one another, where they live and the role they play in pollinating our food crops.
The first workshop focused on honeybee dances, and the children were introduced to the honeybee “waggle dance” and then small teams of students had to dance to indicate to each other where they had found “food”. The students enjoyed running around as “scout” bees to find flowers, and then communicating where they were by waggling.
The second focused on where bees live, and many students were surprised that they don’t all live in hives. They had a great time building insect hotels, which they took back to their schools for their gardens. Although 11 of our Irish bee species would actually nest in these, they are great habitat for other wildlife in our gardens.
Finally, students played a card game and had to guess how insect-dependent various foods were in terms of pollination. Globally, 75% of crop species benefit from animal pollination, mostly by insects. But the degree of dependency varies between crop species: some absolutely depend on insects to transfer pollen (e.g. apples), others just benefit from their visits by producing more or better quality seeds or fruit (e.g. oilseed rape).
At the end of the session, we told the students about the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and what they can do to help stop the decline in pollinators in Ireland. The teachers brought back copies of the Junior version of the Plan so that they can start to make their schools and gardens more pollinator-friendly.
Sandra Austin (Marino Institute of Education), Joanna Crispell (Science Gallery) and Jane Stout (Trinity College Dublin) developed the workshops and student teachers from the Marino Institute of Education and science communicators from the Science Gallery helped run the event.
Waggle dance game inspired by https://cdn.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/Waggle%20dance%20game.pdf and pollinator dependent food game inspired by https://www.naturalis.nl/en/