This summer, Skokie Public Library committed to providing quality STEAM programs for youth in elementary grades while in the hustle that is summer reading. Youth Services Librarian Gudrun Premier facilitated a Be the Scientist program for grades 3-5 earlier this month and focused on insects. Here’s what she did.

Gudrun began the program in our youth program room with an introductory slide show about insects. She focused on how and why insects rest, what they do in winter, and why we, as humans, should care about them. Gudrun then transitioned into a discussion about pollination, having participants share what they know about pollination and why it is important. 

To demonstrate how bees are great pollinators, Gudrun facilitated a quick experiment with participants. She has them work in groups of 3-4 and tasked them with transferring baking powder (e.g. pollen) using a paintbrush, coffee stirrer, pencil, popsicle stick, and a straw. Participants first predicted, and then through the experiment, determined that the paintbrush transferred the pollen the best. They connected the paintbrush bristles to the little hairs that are all over bees’ bodies. 

beehotel2After this brief experiment, Gudrun directed the discussion to native mason bees, which are non-stinging bees and excellent pollinators. She included information about which flower colors mason bees are most attracted to before discussing their habitats, which are rather unique.

Once the information sharing portion of the program was completed, Gudrun moved everyone over to the craft room for the hands-on portion: constructing and decorating mason bee hotels. Gudrun found this project idea from Baker Ross on Pinterest and adapted it to use fewer supplies and fewer steps. All supplies were provided, which included:

  • Plain white mugs
  • Paper straws
  • Scissors
  • Markers

beehotelThe paper straws were squeezed in order to get enough into the mug to stay put. No glue was used. Participants used markers to decorate the mugs with colors that mason bees found attractive. And they really enjoyed this part!

As Gudrun shared, “the group of kids that came had a lot more interest and knowledge about insects than I expected and fortunately our facts matched. Nobody seemed afraid or grossed out and they were enthusiastically participating in both the experiment and the craft activity. They loved decorating the mugs, I think I’ll try to incorporate a creative activity more often.”

What do you think? Will you give it a try?