Pollinators in Alaska

A Lesson Plan for Gardening in the Classroom in Alaska, by Jessica Mulvey, an Alaska Master Gardener

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man
would have no more than four years left to live.”….

The above quote has been falsely been attributed to Albert
Einstein but is the spirit of the quote true? Pollinators, bees particularly,
have been in the news over the past decade due to dramatic & devastating
population declines. Debates over pesticides and their effects on pollinators
are currently being heard in the halls of our nation’s government.  Clearly pollinators are all the buzz! What are
pollinators? Why are they so important? History & science have shown us
that honey bees did not exist in the Western hemisphere before European
expansion in the 15th century. How were plants pollinated before that? Should
honey bees be considered an ‘invasive species’? Should WE?

A Flower Fly (Diptera: Syrphidae) hovers over a Pink Poppy. Photo by Heidi Rader.

Subject Area: Social Studies
Grade Level:11-12
Ideal season for Lesson: Any
Time to complete lesson: 2 class periods
Materials Required:

Student Learning Objectives:

By the end of this lesson, students will:

1. Recognize the types of pollinators that exist in Alaska

2. Define their view on insect pollinators in a written piece.

Learning Activities

Day One


Initiation:  Write
the word “POLLINATOR” on the board and tell students that today is going to be
an unconventional class. Move the class outdoors. Once outdoors, ask the
students what a pollinator is? Do they see any pollinators? Even if there are
no bees present — there are pollinators! Pollinators include — small mammals,
birds, beetles & other insects, wind, water & people!
Lesson Development: 
Pass out the handout “Brought to You By Pollinators” to review the
types of pollinators that exist & some basic facts about pollinators. Next
distribute “Introduction to Alaska Insect Pollinators”. Use the enlarged photos
to assist in instruction. Ask students to quietly observe their surroundings
for 3-4 minutes and list any pollinators they recognize.
Bring class back together. Ask students if they
understand what an ‘invasive species’ is. Define ‘invasive species’ — “Invasive
species are organisms that are introduced into a non-native ecosystem and which
cause, or are likely to cause, harm to the economy, environment or human
health. It is important to note that when we talk about a species being
invasive, we are talking about environmental boundaries, not political ones. In
addition to the many invasive species from outside the U.S., there are many
species from within the U.S. that are invasive in other parts of the country.”
[as defined by the US Fish & Wildlife Service] Note that the term
‘invasive’ does not simply mean non-native, but must also means causing harm.
The honey bee is a non-native species, arriving only in the Western Hemisphere
after European contact — does it qualify as an ‘invasive’? Can people be
considered an invasive species?
Closure: Pass out packet containing remaining
handouts – “Research Upsetting Some Notions About Honey Bees” (below); “On
Einstein, Bees & Survival of the Human Race” (below); “Global Honey Bee
Disorders & Other Threats to Insect Pollinators.” The homework assignment
is to read the packet and be prepared to choose a position on whether or not to
defend pollinators during the next class period.

Day Two

Write the following prompt on the board:

 “As a
responsible citizen of the school & greater community, you are interested
in the types of pesticides & herbicides being used on school &
municipal property. Write a letter to the Town/Village expressing your opinion
on the matter.”
Remind students of the multiple sides of the issue — Does
student & public safety play a role in this issue? Public appearances? Long
term health concerns? Effects on water supplies & the environment?
Pollinators? Encourage students to use information from the packets they read
last night in their letters.

Alaska Social Studies Standards

A-2,4,5: 2) know that the interpretation of history may
change as new evidence is discovered; 4) understand that history relies on the
interpretation of evidence;5) understand that history is a narrative told in
many voices and expresses various perspectives of historical experience;
B-2: understand the people and the political, geographic,
economic, cultural, social, and environmental events that have shaped the
history of the state, the United States, and the world;
C-4: use historical perspective to solve problems, make
decisions, and understand other traditions.
D-3,4,5,6: 3) define a personal position on issues while
understanding the historical
aspects of the positions and roles assumed by others; 4)
recognize and demonstrate that various issues may require an understanding of
different positions, jobs, and personal roles depending on place, time, and
context; 5) base personal citizenship action on reasoned historical judgment
with recognition of responsibility for self and others; and 6) create new
approaches to issues by incorporating history with other disciplines, including
economics, geography, literature, the arts, science, and technology.


About Heidi Rader

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