Hands-on learning about Honey Bees

Spending time in nature and observing the little things like bugs, insects and birds have provided my children with so many learning opportunities. I have previously talked about The Nature Curriculum, as we call it, and how nature can inspire an interest and lead you on a learning adventure. This is exactly how my children’s interest in bees came about.

Developing an interest

Earlier this year we had a Bee Hawk Moth visit our garden so we spent a few days observing it buzzing from flower to flower. During this observation time it brought up lots of questions; what it was, did it have a stinger, what was it doing here and was it apart of the bee family. These questions were investigated and answers were found.
A few weeks later, we observed a honey bee visiting our garden. Again the process of observation and questions occurred. One of the first questions that we investigated was whether or not this was a “mummy” bee. 

Life Cycle
We used our FREE life cycle of a honeybee nomenclature cards  to look at how a bee develops and grows from a tiny little eggs to a completely grown honeybee. We also used our Life Cycle of a Honey Bee figurines that I previously purchased from Mini Zoo.

We quickly learnt that the “Mummy” bee is called the Queen bee and she is the only bee in the hive that lays the eggs. I found this visual on How Bees Work Life Cycle for my children to see how the bees develop and grown as well as who looks after them.

Bee Anatomy
We had talked about the Queen bee and how the worker bees look after the larva and pupa as they grow. This had brought up questions about which bees collect the honey and how they carry it back to the hive. I designed and made a felt puzzle for learning about the parts of a honeybee and found these FREE parts of a honey bee nomenclature cards to go together. I presented the cards first and talked about the different names for each part of the bee. My children chose to label the felt puzzle and have been back many times to explore it on their own.

You can download my FREE Honeybee Anatomy Template that I used to make our felt honeybee puzzle from here.

Bees Home
While we were out on one of our many nature walks, we came across what we thought was an old, unoccupied wasp hive. My children were immediately fascinated by this hive which looks so much like a bee hive. We took the little hive home to make further observations and see if we can learn who might have built it.

This discovery led us to research about bee hives and what they look like. My daughters became inspired to make their own bee hive and got to work putting together their beehive from different recycled items we had before adding paint to it.

This self-constructed bee hive became the centre of play-based learning for my daughters as they role-played and made up stories about the life cycle of the honey bees and the work that the different types of bees do (such as collecting honey and caring for the pupa). By listening and watching them play, I could see how they were recalling the information we had talked and read about. Play is such an important process of learning that all children need.

We had talked about the important job that bees do making honey as well as how bee pollinate our flowering fruits and vegetables. Miss 5 made the connection between bees and our own watermelon that we had grown in our garden. She spent a number of hours watching the flowers on our watermelon vine till she finally saw a bee arrive and begin pollinating. We spent sometime trying to identify this little bee who we think is a native Australian honeybee.

We know that bees make honey but my children discovered, by reading The Life and Times of a Honey Bee by Charles Micuicci that bees also make wax. We have a local beekeeper who is going to talk with us next month so in the meantime I purchased a Beeswax Candle Making Kit from Spiral Garden for my children to explore.

Resource and Interest Shelf
As an interest in bees has grown, so has our interest shelf. We like using an interest as away of giving our resources in one place and it helps things organized. Some of the resources we have on our shelf I have already mentioned above. Books, together with google, have been used a lot during our learning and some of the books we have used are:

We also watched a few different documentaries from YouTube as well as Bee MovieMaya The Bee movie and the Magic School Bus In A Beehive which is available on YouTube. As this interest in honeybees continues I am sure our interest shelf will grow as my children’s knowledge will deepen and expand, all through interest-led learning.

You can find more resources and activity ideas about Bee and other insects, over on my Insect pinterest board

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Hands-on Learning about Ladybugs

Last year we planted some watermelon seeds and have been doing lots of learning about how to care for watermelon plants and even enjoying some very juicy watermelons. However, a few weeks ago, my children discovered some ladybugs on our watermelon plant and this has led them on an interest-led learning journey all about ladybugs. 

We spent time out in our garden each morning observing the ladybugs and just watching what they were doing and where they were going. While we were observing them my children started to ask questions such as what do ladybugs eat, do they sleep, how do they have babies and is that a cocoon?

The Life Cycle
One of my children’s first questions was how ladybugs have babies or reproduce. We had previously looked at the ladybug life cycle last year so they had a basic idea. We were lucky enough to be able to observe the complete life cycle of a ladybug right in our garden. Through observation we found ladybug eggs under some leaves in our garden, we observed the larva moving around and even saw a few different pupa’s and of course, plenty of adult ladybugs.

Even as we observed their life cycle, questions about why they laid their eggs under a leaf instead of on top of the leaf came up. So we took our learning inside to investigate these questions further. Their questions are always a good indication of where their interests are and what direction their learning is heading. My children found their Safari Ladybug Life Cycle figurines and the nomenclature cards I had made to explore the life cycle further.

Without interrupting their learning, I set up a simple provocative with our speilgaben set to provoke an open-ended way for my children to create and explore ladybugs through art. Miss 5 took the opportunity to create a ladybug and some ladybug eggs on a leaf like she had seen in the garden.

Ladybug Anatomy
While we had been observing the ladybugs in our garden, we watched a ladybug spread out their wings and flutter around. This provoked questions such as how do ladybugs fly and where are their wings.

I used ladybug nomenclature cards to introduce parts of a ladybug to my children. I introduced the control cards first as we talked about the name and where it was located on the ladybugs body. This was followed matching the picture cards and word card to the control cards.

To make learning about ladybug anatomy more hands-on, I made a ladybug model out of felts (I share my FREE template at the end of this post). So my children used the word cards to identify and label their ladybug. Each of them did this activity a number of times over a few weeks as they used the control cards to identify the parts of the ladybugs anatomy. This was such a great independent learning activity.


Ladybug Diet
Another question that my children wanted to know was what did ladybugs eat. My children use our Beetles and Bugs guide to search for the information. They discovered aphids are what ladybugs like to eat and this is a good thing as aphids are considered pests and they eat crops….just like our watermelon! They went straight out in search of aphids and found plenty of them all over our watermelon vine. This was a fantastic learning moment when my children realised what ladybugs do and why they are important in our garden and other gardens that grow fruits and vegetables.

Interest Shelf
As the interest in ladybugs has grown, we have slowly put together an interest shelf of all the resources we have been using. So far we have books as well as the ladybug life cycle and anatomy resources that I have shared above. I am sure over the coming weeks my children will add more resources to their interest table.

You can download a copy of my printable ladybug life cycle cards as well as a ladybug anatomy template puzzle.

You can find more hands-on activity ideas and resources over on my Insects pinterest board

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