Start of main content.

UCL Roots & Shoots: Spreading mud, glitter and a new found appreciation of bees

This year we’ve taught in three schools. These are St Aidens, Rutherford and Kensington primary schools, with 2 classes in the final two and 1 in the first. With each class we do two sessions, the bee session below and a small group work shop session. This involves splitting the class in three, with two volunteers per group. We then discuss issues such as overfishing, habitat loss and climate change, with short activities and games to illustrate the concepts involved. At the end of the two sessions we present a tree, and the children put a leaf on the tree every time they do something that is beneficial to the environment, hopefully promoting long term good habits in the children!

So, who can tell me how many eyes bees have?’ is met with a forest of eager hands.

‘Yes you at the back there, how many do you think they have?’

‘Two! They have two eyes!’

‘Good guess, almost! Actually it’s 5!’

And so the lesson begins.

It’s lovely to see the children’s excitement. They file in to class with whispers of ‘Look at that bee!’ as they spot our first slide on the projector; a close up of wonderfully hairy, majestic bumblebee astride a lavender bloom, the purple and yellow beautifully contrasting.

And their excitement only grows. Five eyes is stupendous enough, but a few minutes later on in the presentation when a tiny, knitted bee finger puppet and glitter appear it’s almost too much. We have to do the pollination game several times; just so more children can have a go at dipping their finger (bee puppet in place) in the glitter of one flower and transferring it to the next.

Next on the agenda is a discussion about what life would be like without bees. It’s fascinating to see the answers they come up with.

One week everyone was convinced we would have no medicine if the bees disappeared (all stemming from a little girl telling us about here lemon and honey mixture her mum made when she had a cold!), whilst other weeks we got to the answers more quickly; there would be no flowers, many plants, including lots that we eat, would disappear, and the food that other animals eat would disappear too, making life very difficult.

At this point, we return to positivity with how the children can help our declining bee populations. We talk about eating organic food, not using pesticides, buying local honey, and planting bee friendly flowers in their gardens or window boxes.

For the grand finale, loo roll, scissors and soil make an appearance, and it’s all hands on deck to contain the mud and mayhem!

At the end of the school day, each child goes home with a little loo roll plant pot with soil and a few seeds planted in it, and instructions on how to look after their precious bee snack. What we’re hoping is that at least some of these plants (the ones that don’t get dropped on the way home from school!) will go on to become vital refuges across London for our hungry bees, and more importantly that this session will plant a different kind of seed in these children’s minds, about the problems animals are facing and how we, as individuals, really can help!

Share by email or online: