Save the Honeybees! (Project Based Learning - Biodiversity and Ecosystem loss)

Driving Question:  Why is it important to save the honeybees and how can you help?


SC.S.3.1 - Nature of Science: demonstrate the ability to think and act as scientists by engaging in active inquiries and investigations, while incorporating hands-on activities.

SC.S.3.2 - Content of Science (.1, .2, .4): identify the structures of living things, including their systems and explain their functions, observe, measure and record changes in living things, observe and describe relationships among organisms and predict the effect of adverse factors.

SC.S.3.3 - Application of Science (.1, .3): identify that systems are made of parts that interact with one another, observe that changes occur gradually, repetitively, or randomly within the environment and question causes of changes.

Research Strategy #1 - Thematic Units
Objective: Students will research the effects of the loss of pollinators on the ecosystem and our food supply and create a music video to spread awareness.

Haagen-Dazs is only one of many companies interested in saving the honey bee.  Through this website, students can participate in simulations, watch a video created by high school students and Haagen-Dazs and use it as a model to recreate their own, learn facts about honey bees and the foods they pollinate, and discover ways in which they can join the fight to save honeybees, such as planting a pollinator garden.   The variety of activities and information ensure a wide-range of applications and participation over a long period of time, while incorporating several subjects such as mathematics and language arts.  Thematic instruction has been shown to increase student achievement (Beane, 1997; Kovalik, 1994). In addition, cognitive research shows that educational programs should challenge students to link, connect, and integrate ideas and to learn in authentic contexts, taking into account their perception of real-world problems. (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999; diSessa, 2000; Linn & Hsi, 2000).   This rich resource certainly will engage students in a very real problem, one that is in dire need of a solution.

Research Strategy #3 - Summarizing and Note Taking

Objectives: Students will be able to correctly draw and label the parts of an insect. 
Students will demonstrate an understanding of the functions of different roles within a bee colony (queen, worker, drone).  

This webquest can be used in conjunction with a Save the Bees unit as an engaging method of summarizing and note taking.  After exploring the simulation, which provides facts about a few foods that bees pollinate, the students must use three different websites to locate specific information about bees and insects and answer questions.  They then use this information to create their own "My Insect" book.  Effective summarizing leads to an increase in student learning. Helping students recognize how information is structured will help them summarize what they read or hear. For example, summarizing of a reading assignment can be more effective when done within summary frames, which typically include a series of questions the teacher provides to direct student attention to specific content (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).

Research Strategy #5 - Homework and Practice

Objective: Students will solicit the involvement of their neighbors, communities, and local officials as well as adhere to the long-term actions dictated in the pledge. 

The Honey Haven website asks people interested in saving the bees to sign a pledge which states that they will protect the bees from pesticides, provide a variety of food, a year-round and clean source of water, and shelter for the bees.  This pledge ensures action and "homework" on the part of the student as it encourages them to spread the word with their families, neighbors, and communities.  Students can also create bee havens in their own yards and then add them to the map on this website.  In addition, the site provides detailed information about ways to involve the community in the fight to save the bees, such as tips of how to write the editor of the local newspaper, and offers incentives such as an aluminum Honey Bee Haven garden sign that you receive after donating a small amount of money to join the Pesticide Action Network, a group that works to replace pesticides with safe and sustainable alternatives.  Students could collect donations from family and neighbors to use to join this group, and draft their letters to the newspaper editor for homework.  Research shows that teachers should assign appropriate homework at instructional levels that match students' skills and provide positive consequences for homework completion (Rademacher, Deshler, Schumacher, & Lenz, 1998; Rosenberg, 1989) and the resources found at this website align with that recommendation. 

Research Strategy #7 - Cooperative Grouping

Objective: Students will work in groups
in active inquiries and investigations to observe, measure, and record changes in living things.

The Great Sunflower Project is an organization dedicated to conserving spaces for pollinators, with a special incentive called the Garden Leader Program.  Through this program, groups can be formed and the organization will send each group seeds and fertilizer to start their own sunflower garden.  Groups are then given their own page on the website to use to track their bee observations and map their garden's location.  The group with the most observations at the end of the year receives a prize from the organization.  This resource is excellent for cooperative grouping, as effective cooperative learning occurs when students work together to accomplish shared goals and when positive structures are in place to support that process (Johnson & Johnson, 1999).  There may be no other instructional strategy that simultaneously achieves such diverse outcomes as cooperative grouping. The amount, generalizability, breadth, and applicability of the research on cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts provides considerable validation of the use of cooperative learning to achieve diverse outcomes, including achievement, time on task, motivation, transfer of learning, and other benefits (Cohen, 1994a; Johnson, 1970; Johnson & Johnson, 1974, 1978, 1989, 1999a, 2000; Kohn, 1992; Sharan, 1980; Slavin, 1977, 1991).

Research Strategy #9 - Providing Feedback

Objective:  Students will create a graphic organizer and correctly label and describe the functions of the parts of a flower. 

Effective feedback is timely. Delay in providing students feedback diminishes its value for learning (Banger-Drowns, Kulik, Kulik, & Morgan, 1991).  Because of this, interactive and educational resources such as this plant life interactive are an effective means of providing immediate feedback.  As discussed in the research strategy for simulations and games, Games are dynamic, intrinsically motivating, and involve high levels of involvement. They provide immediate feedback to participants, and mistakes do not result in actually losing assets (Hood, 1997).

Research Strategy #11 - Ques, Questions, and Advanced Organizers

The Bees 101 book, which is free to download from the Haagen-Dazs website, has visual and written explanations about bees, insects, pollination, colony collapse disorder, and and flowers for pollinators.  It also includes graphic activities, such as a diagram where students must label the parts of a bee and a list of foods that bees pollinate which the students must put into alphabetical order.  From this book, the students could create several other graphic organizers in class such as a pyramid fold displaying the 3 parts of an insect of a 4 tabbed fold for the parts of a flower.   Advance organizers, including graphic ones, help students learn new concepts and vocabulary (Stone, 1983). Presenting information graphically as well as symbolically in an advance organizer reinforces vocabulary learning and supports reading skills. (Brookbank Grover, Kullberg, & Strawser, 1999; Moore & Readence 1984). Students learn more when they are presented information in several modes (Paivio, 1986).

Research Strategy #2 - Identifying Similarities and Differences
Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of flowers and their features by selecting appropriate varieties to attract pollinators. 

Seeing similarities and differences is a fundamental cognitive process (Gentner & Markman, 1994; Medin, Goldstone, & Markman, 1995).  This educational video clearly points out the differences between flowers that do and do not attract pollinators.  This understanding is vital to planting a successful pollinator garden, which the students participating in this unit will be doing. After watching, students can further investigate the types of flowers which would be most beneficial to their garden through a variety of resources such as other credible websites, magazines, or reference books.  Students also benefit by being asked to construct their own strategies for comparing similarities and differences (Chen, 1996; Flick, 1992; Mason, 1994, 1995; Mason & Sorzio, 1996), and this open-ended form of research encourages just that. 

Research Strategy #4 - Reinforcing Effort
Objective: Students will organize and host a fund raiser and participate in national efforts to inform and educate others about the loss of the honeybee. 


Not all students know the connection between effort and achievement (Seligman, 1990, 1994; Urdan, Migley, & Anderman, 1998). Because student achievement can increase when teachers show the relationship between an increase in effort to an increase in success (Craske, 1985; Van Overwalle & De Metsenaere, 1990), it is essential that they provide opportunities for realizing their success.  The Pollinator Partnership is a non profit organization dedicated to saving the bees through research and education.  On this site, children can see the efforts of people all around the country, as well as the results of their own efforts.  The S.H.A.R.E program featured on the site allows schools or families that Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment to register these spaces and be featured on the sites S.H.A.R.E. map.  Donation and fund raiser opportunities are also available through the site, and the organization leads events such as Pollinator Week 2012.  Through the various forms of involvement and recognition, students will readily realize the impact and importance of their efforts in saving the bees. 

Research Strategy #6 - Non-linguistic Representation

Objective: Students will plan, implement, maintain, and monitor a pollinator garden using scientific methods.  

Learners acquire and store knowledge in two primary ways: linguistic (by reading or hearing lectures), and non-linguistic (through visual imagery, kinesthetic or whole-body modes, and so forth). The more students use both systems of representing knowledge, the better they are able to think about and recall what they have learned (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001). Visual representations help students recognize how related topics connect (NCTM, 2000).  Starting a school pollinator garden provides students with a genuine, hands-on, engaging experience through which to deeply investigate several concepts.  Not only can the garden be used to study and teach the importance of pollinators and bees, it crosses several areas of the curriculum by addressing scientific subjects as well as mathematics and language arts.  The construction of the garden requires planning, collaboration, soliciting support, and substantial knowledge regarding plant life.  Furthermore, it requires ongoing maintenance and can be used in conjunction with in depth investigations into the natural world. 

Research Strategy #8 - Setting Objectives

Some studies indicate that student learning "contracts" are effective in developing student ownership and completion of goals. A contract would be an agreement between student and teacher for a grade the students will receive if they meet established criteria (Kahle & Kelly, 1994; Miller & Kelley, 1994; Vollmer, 1995). 
Through the 1000 Friends of Bees website, students can identify the main objectives of the unit as well as sign a pledge to uphold them.  The objectives are left open to a wide range of implementation, but help to guide the general direction of the unit and set long term goals such as establishing a pollinator garden and alerting officials in their town to the severity of the problem with bees.  This resource is an effective use of the setting objective strategy because research shows that "instructional goals should not be too specific. When goals are too narrowly focused they can limit learning (Fraser, 1987; Walberg, 1999)."

Research Strategy #10 - Generating and Testing Hypothesis
Objective:  Students will generate and test hypothesis using hands-on experimentation. 

Before planting a pollinator garden, the students can use this and other websites to generate a hypothesis regarding which flowers will attract the most bees.  These can then be tested through a series of observations after planting the garden.  The students can work in groups, and present their findings to the class through some type of visual aid such as a chart or graph.  By generating and testing a hypothesis, students are applying their conceptual understanding (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).  In addition, understanding increases when students are asked to explain the scientific principles they are working from and the hypotheses they generate from these principles (Lavoie, 1999; Lavoie & Good, 1988; Lawson, 1988).

Research Strategy #12 - Simulations and Games

Games and modeling activities can elicit curiosity, create a demand for knowledge, and enable students to discover knowledge through exploration (Edelson, 1998). Games are dynamic, intrinsically motivating, and involve high levels of involvement. They provide immediate feedback to participants, and mistakes do not result in actually losing assets (Hood, 1997).  The Insect Riddles game found on the Kid's Corner website is just one of many interactive activities related to the Save the Honeybees theme.  Students love to explore on the internet and providing them with games such as these is one way to ensure they are actively engaged in the material.  The webquest mentioned in research strategy #3 features a simulation where the students can fly a bee through a field and click on different trees and flowers that the bees pollinate to learn facts, as well as other related and educational games found at the Kid's Corner.