Lesson Six: The Role of Humans and Animals in Pollination

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Grade Level:

2nd Grade


The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand the important role that humans and animals play in pollination. Students will also have an opportunity to engage in the engineering process as they develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in pollinating plants.


2 class sessions (time may vary depending on class.)


  • “Flowers and Pollination” video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWC2NfXpbTQ (source 1) Video length: 7 minutes.
  • From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
  • photos of pollinators (1 set for the class, or display PowerPoint)
  • materials for mock pollen (crushed chalk, glitter, baby powder, crushed up Cheetos)
  • alfalfa “flowers” (2 “flowers” per student group)
  • copy of Engineering Design Process poster (source 2) to show students
  • “3-2-1: Pollination” prompts (one per student)

Suggested Teacher Preparation:

  • Preview the video that emphasizes how animals/insects help plants in pollination. The video has many slow-motion shots of flowers opening and closing. It highlights the following four creatures: bees, hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies. Depending on your time and class, decide to either show the entire 7-minute video or only the parts with the creatures.
  • Print and post the Engineering Design Process poster
  • Think of an alfalfa pollinator of your own design that you can quickly sketch in order to model the sketching process to
    students in step 8.
  • Gather and prepare the area and all materials needed for the pollinator creation and testing phases mentioned in steps 10-12
    including making copies of the alfalfa “flowers”.
  • If choosing to have students write, gather a piece of paper for each student to respond to the “3-2-1: Pollination” prompts listed in the assessment step.

Supporting Questions:

How is agriculture unique in Wyoming? How is agriculture developed, used, and cared for? How does agriculture impact Wyoming’s culture? Who is involved in agricultural production? What happens if agriculture in Wyoming goes away?


Science: 2-LS2-2, K-2-ETS1-2 (both explicitly taught)


(use a reference as needed)

  • Pollen – the fertilizing element of flowering plants
  • Pollination – transfer of pollen from one flower to the next to produce new seed
  • Disperse – to spread widely

Instructional Procedure/Steps:

  1. Have students review the effects of weather on the survival of plants. Tell students that the weather can also affect another aspect of plant development called pollination (e.g. it can delay flower blooming; it can keep bees dormant; the wind moves pollen, etc.)
  2. Have students share what they know about pollination. (You might choose to reread the short section in From Seed to Plant about pollination.)Ask: What insects pollinate plants? What other animals help pollinate plants and how? Brainstorm and discuss the animals/insects that students have seen or know are here as pollinators in Wyoming. Review the importance of pollination and crop growth.
  3. View the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWC2NfXpbTQ, pausing to discuss different sections and animals. Use the information from the video to have the students name how the animals help flowers pollinate.
  4. After the video, have students discuss which things they brainstormed from step 2 that were in the video and which things they saw in the video that they didn’t name when brainstorming.
  5. Pose the challenge. Say: “You are an alfalfa farmer in the Big Horn Basin. You rely heavily on bees to pollinate your crops so you can harvest the seeds and sell the seeds. This year there was a frost that killed many bees in your area. You know that without bees your crops will not be pollinated; therefore, they will not produce enough seeds for you to sell. How can you use technology to create a pollinator to help offset the loss of bees in your area?”
  6. Have students work in small groups or partners to brainstorm characteristics of a successful pollinator. Use these questions and the photos of pollinators to help guide the brainstorming process:
    • What would a man-made pollinator need to be/have in order to successfully move pollen from one flower to another?
    • What characteristics of natural pollinators (bees) would you want to try and replicate? (furry, fuzzy, pollen will stick to it etc.)
  7. Draw students’ attention to the engineering design process poster. Read through the different steps of the process. Ask: Which parts of the process have they completed so far? Say: “You will now continue to work through the remaining steps.”

    TEACHER NOTE: As students continue to work through the design process, periodically ask them which part of the process they are using. This will help them to reflect on the thinking they are doing and will help ensure that they are not skipping any of the steps. Teachers who are new to the design process can learn more about it at: https://eie.org/eie- curriculum/resources/engineering-design-process-action (source 3) The video is 12 minutes and 23 seconds long.

  8. Using some of the ideas that they have brainstormed, have students work on a sketch of a pollinator that they would like to create to pollinatetheiralfalfacrop. Say: “You are going to model your pollinator with a sketch. A sketch is a type of drawing that engineers and other designers use to get their ideas down quickly. This type of drawing is done very quickly, and it isn’t intended to be a finished piece of work.” The teacher should then model drawing a sketch to emphasize that it captures the critical components of the pollinator but does not take a long time to construct.
  9. TEACHER NOTE: Since the science standards are specific to modeling, it’s important to be explicit with students regarding the different types of modeling they are doing in this lesson, how to create those models, and how the models are being used to represent aspects of pollinators. There is a cross content connection opportunity here as well – working with the art teacher to develop students’ ability to create a sketch. This would make work with sketches in future scientific modeling more efficient and effective.

  10. Present students with various materials that they could use to create their pollinator (cotton balls, pipe cleaners, straws, tape, clothes pins, foil, felt, string, etc.) Ensure that each group has access to the same items.
  11. Give students the following parameters. Say: “You must build a pollinator using the available materials that will transfer pollen from one flower to another.” “Flowers” will be spaced 1 foot apart. Show students what will be used as the mock alfalfa flower and simulated pollen (crushed chalk, glitter, baby powder, crushed up Cheetos), and demonstrate the distance that pollen must travel – one foot. Before the actual test, teacher will need to place the “flowers” one foot apart.
  12. Give students time to create their pollinator from their sketch using the materials provided. (approximately 20 min)
  13. Once students have created their pollinator, have them test their designs with the mock pollen and mock flower. If their pollinator is NOT successful, allow students time to revise their models based on what they have learned. They can retest their pollinators as time allows.

    TEACHER NOTE: To check for understanding, as students are designing and testing their pollinators, circulate among the groups and ask students to explain their models for you. Ask:

    • How is your physical model like your sketch?
    • How does this part of your model represent something that you saw in the video with animal pollinators?
    • How does this part of your model help with the pollination process?
  14. Once students (partners or groups) have a working pollinator to share, organize a gallery walk for students to be able to observe other students’ work and share out their results. Before beginning the share out, say: “During this activity, you were being engineers. You worked on problem solving using two types of models. You used a sketch to create a physical model. As you talk about your pollinators and the pollinators of your classmates, use the word ‘model’.”
  15. Debrief with students what went well and what was challenging. Have students recap how they used the engineering design process to create their pollinators.
  16. Guide students in a discussion about the importance of natural pollinators. Discuss how bees and other pollinators are really important. Although we were able to design some successful devices, there is still a huge need for pollinators. Emphasize that as stewards we must protect pollinators due to the role that they play in the plant life cycle. Ask:
    • How successful were the students in designing a pollinating device?
    • Would it be realistic to replace natural pollinators with technology on a large scale?
    • What would happen if bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, and other pollinators disappear?


Use the 3-2-1 Strategy to help capture some of the students thinking about pollinators at the end of the lesson. Students either complete the “3-2-1: Pollination” orally or each student writes his/her own responses on a piece of paper before moving on to the next lesson. Students respond to the following three prompts:

  • List 3 things I’ve learned about pollination.
  • List 2 roles that humans and animals play in pollination.
  • Draw 1 model to show the process of pollination.

Possible extension activity:

Find a current events article about the importance of pollinators and discuss the implications if they go away. A possible example would be the “bee crisis”.


  1. Haedoe, W. (2014, March 7). Flowers and Pollination. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWC2NfXpbTQ
  2. Education to Save the World. (2014, January 8). Engineering Design Process. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from: https://edtosavetheworld.com/2014/01/08/what-does-engineering-in-the-classroom-look-like/ Bullet points under each of the steps in the process were added by this website. The steps themselves come from the Engineering is Elementary website: https://eie.org/eie-curriculum/resources/engineering-design-process-action
  3. Engineering is Elementary. (2017).The Engineering Design Process in Action. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from: https://eie.org/eie- curriculum/resources/engineering-design-process-action