Save the Bees!

Group members: Helen Bailey, Sophia Reinach, Rikhav Shah, and Maddie Pelz

Audience: Children, 2nd and 3rd grade

Goals: To teach kids about why bees are important to us, the different threats that bees face, and what they can do to support their survival.

Technique: Participatory game

Data set: USDA Honey Bee Colony Data (2015 & 2016)

Our group was worried about the statistics concerning the threats that bee colonies in the US are facing. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of colonies affected by mites, viruses, and pesticides has increased dramatically. Thinking about that, we imagined that we should do something to raise awareness in the new generations about the importance of the bees and with that invest in a future new perspective. That’s the reason that we chose to work with children.

Considering this audience and the goal, we imagined that it would be important to teach through a ludic environment and there is nothing better than a game to engage kids in a theme. Considering that the concepts that we were talking about have some complexity, we realized that we had to prepare a game for kids that would help them to understand them and for this reason we decided to work with kids from the 2nd and 3rd grade. To engage kids of this age, we imagined that a game in which they could have clear goals while running through a defined space could be a good strategy. For this reason, we prepared the game with the following structure:

And the instructions were:

“Back here are two parts of a flower – in this part [purple balls] there is nectar that bees collect to make food for their families and that you need to bring back to your hive on your way across to the other flowers and trees. Bees need nectar so don’t forget to bring this to your hive to help feed your bee family.

In this part [yellow balls] there is pollen, which gets attached to the bee while they’re visiting flowers. Pollen is what you need to bring across to the flowers and trees across the room. This is one of the ways that bees help us – by bringing pollen to fruit trees and flowers, they help all of our favorite fruits and vegetables grow.

Remember, you can’t bring the yellow and green pollen to the flowers and trees unless you first drop off a red or pink nectar to the hive.” 

This was the basic instruction. But to demonstrate the growing impact of pesticides, diseases and mites, we made it into two rounds.  

“First round:

In this round, there will be one person who will pretend to be a ‘pesticide,’ which is something that gets sprayed on plants and can hurt bees if they eat it. The person who is the pesticide will try to tag the bees between the first flower and the hive to keep them from delivering the nectar to the hive. If you’re a bee and you get tagged by the pesticide, you need to freeze where you’re standing and count to 10 before you can go back to helping gather pollen.

Second round:

The first round represented what it was like for bees last year, but this round is going to show what it’s like for bees today. Now there are even more pesticides, and other things that can harm bees like viruses and mites.

This time, there will be someone being a pesticide again, but there will also be someone who is a mite, and someone that is a virus. Those three people will be trying to tag the bees as they try to get the pollen and the nectar to the right places. If you’re a bee and you get tagged, you’ve been slowed down by the pesticides, mites, or virus, and you have to freeze and count to 10 before you can start helping carry pollen and nectar again. You’ll have the same amount of time for this round as you did for the first round, and we’ll compare how much pollen you were able to deliver to the flower.”

We decided to grow from one kid to three considering the proportional increase of this harms in the dataset from 2016 to 2017 (about 30%). And, considering that the game would be applied to 8 kids, we imagined that these quantities would also be adequate for the dynamic of the game.

To evaluate what the kids learned with the game and the effectiveness of it, we had two talks with them: one in the beginning and one at the end of the games. The questions were:


  • What do you know about bees?
  • Are bees scary or nice?
  • What are bees important for?
  • What do bees help us with?

During the game presentation:

Do you know that pesticides are?

Have you heard of a parasite?

What about a virus?


Which bucket has more balls?

Which game was easier?

What things did you learn about that are hurting the bees?

How can we help the bees?

Following the post-game discussion/debrief, we gave each student a seed packet containing seeds to grow flowers that support bee health to take home. We hoped that by giving them something to take home they could continue the conversation with their parents and be able to really do something to help support bees.


We applied the game with a group of 8 kids from 2nd and 3rd grade in an afterschool program at Somerville on May 15th, 2018.

The first time we ran the game with kids was really encouraging, and we got some great results. The kids had fun and learned a lot about bees even within a short game context. This can be seen in their answers to the pre- and post-game questions below. We also asked them if they had suggestions to improve the game and there were few ideas, but overall they liked the dynamic of the game, and even asked to play another round after we were done with the two structured rounds.

We received the following message from the coordinator of the program, which for us means a lot that we provided a good experience for them: “[The bee game] was terrific and the kids got so much out of it!


Appendix: Pre and Post Survey/Interviews:


1)What do you know about bees?

They sting people

My Grandpa keeps bees

There is a movie about bees

There are lots of different kinds:

          Yellow jackets

          Bubble bees


2)Are bees scary or nice?

They are both nice and not nice

They’re nice when you don’t bother them

They’re not nice when you go into their hive

          Grandpa has gone into the hive but he wears the clothes

After they sting you they die

They’re medium between nice and scary

They’re scary

Are wasps the same as bees?

Told us stories about them getting stung


3)What are bees important for?



Spreads pollen from one place to another

Helping us breathe because of trees


4)What do bees help us with?

Helps us survive

Carry the pollen away from people with allergies

Some bees will try to kill you

Game demonstration:

1)Do you know that pesticides are?

They’re weird people

They’re people who collect honey

Why would someone use pesticides? [good question!]

What bugs eat plants



          Cockroaches eat?!


2)Have you heard of a parasite?

It could look like a green slimy thing

Mite sounds like mce


3)What about a virus?

A person has it and becomes sick

It’s a cold kind of


1)Which bucket has more balls? (from the first round compared to the second)

The first bucket from when there was only one pesticide


2)Which game was easier?

Most said first game

Second one was harder bc there were more people tagging us


3)What things did you learn about that are hurting the bees?

Bees are going extinct

It’s hard for the bees to survive

The bees might go extinct

They are facing dangers

There is a spray paint thing which hurts them

Viruses can make both people and bees sick

Honey and pollinating

Bananas are a fruit I think


4)How can we help the bees?

Can give them more flowers

Take them up and kiss them

Don’t attack them

Don’t use pesticides

Put up signs where there are pesticides [another kid said ‘I don’t think they’ll know what that means’]

Suggestions for making the game more fun

Make everybody a pesticide

Make everyone both a bee and pesticide

Have someone be another character to help the bees to free them after they are tagged [good one that we had actually considered but we were afraid that would be too complicated especially with just 8 kids]

One bee will help the other bees

See Like a Bee

Haley Meisenholder, Jay Dev, Marc Gomez, Maddie Pelz

The data say that bee populations have been dramatically decreasing in most of the US over time. Our audience is a visitor to the USDA websitee who wants to learn more about bees and find out what they can do to help them recover from their population losses. Our goals are to inform people who might not think of bees as anything special about how much bees contribute to the success of agriculture across the country, and how threatened they are as a species. It is also our goal to then link people using this platform up with resources for them to explore different plants they can plant in their own garden to help support bees, how they can support legislation to protect bees in their state, and where they can find local honey to purchase.

Our data story takes the form of an interactive website. The viewer starts on a page with an overview of the bee populations in each state using data on honey producing colonies from the USDA. They then identify what state they are from to narrow in on the data and explore the information most relevant to them. Once the participant enters where they live, you can explore the health of the bees in your state by learning the extent to which bees were lost between 2001 and 2011, and then see most current numbers for 2017.

After learning on the first page that bees are crucial to agriculture, on the second page they are able to see the general changes in the bee populations in their state (most decreasing dramatically). After viewing this information, participants can then activate ‘bee vision, ’ created from data from the National Land Cover Database (2011). ‘Bee Vision’ shows vegetation land lost between 2001 and 2011. This map links land use to bee health, demonstrating how these changes to agriculture threaten their survival.

After exploring ‘bee vision,’ the next page then acts as a way to inform people about what they can do to make a difference. Rather than just a general call to action, this page provides an array of information that people can use to take specific steps towards action. In addition to information about the three ways to move forward that were mentioned previously, there are links to organizations or contact information that allow for immediate action to be taken.

Kyoto Community Flower Diary

Helen Bailey, Maddie Pelz & Yihang Sui


This rich historical dataset dating back to the early 800s suggests that the full flowering date of the cherry trees in Kyoto have become increasingly early across time. We want to tell this story because cherry blossoms are an important part of Japanese culture, and are an example of the many species of plants being threatened by climate change.

As members of the travel bureau, our audience is people traveling to Kyoto hoping to plan a trip to visit different landmarks. Our goals with this interactive data story are to engage visitors with the cultural importance of cherry blossoms and the history of Kyoto, in order to encourage them to continue to build upon this historical dataset. Participants select the day of their visit to Kyoto, and then select an interest from the list we provide. The list includes architecture, religion, theater, art, and etc. After selecting their personal interest, they will be guided to the place of interest or things to do in Kyoto.

Assume they are interested in architecture. They then are shown a historical photo from the year in which that day was the full flowering day in Kyoto, and given information about that landmark. We then ask them to them contribute a modern photo of the landmark in order to help collect data on modern flowering times, as well as a way to collect and share their own travel memories. Using this app, we hope to connect their current travel experiences to the past in order to encourage them to reflect on the impact that climate change is having on these beautiful trees.

For example, Yuyiko from Tokyo traveled to Kyoto this year. She was interested in Religion and visited Daigo-ji on April 5th. She took pretty photos with cherry blossom and helped us keep the data of flowering date. From her photos, we collect April 5th’s data.

For this data story we used a dataset consisting of (almost) yearly records of the peak flowering dates of the cherry blossoms since ~800AD. Despite this dataset’s simple appearance, the data points have been collected from a range of historical sources, ranging from personal diaries to government documents describing emperors plans for the official cherry blossom festival. We used this along with scientific reports of how climate change is playing a role in these earlier flowering times to provide additional information about these blooming trends.

Tipping the Scales of Climate Justice

Scott Gilman, Sofia Reinach, Maddie Pelz

The data say that while some countries contribute more than their share of harmful emissions leading to climate change, these are not the same countries that will suffer the biggest consequences due to climate change. We want to tell this story to point out the imbalance of cause and consequences of climate change, and to encourage people in the US and elsewhere to take action to reduce their climate footprints. Our audience is people of different ages visiting a science museum, who would see this as a part of an exhibit on climate change and its causes and effects.

Each scale represents a different variable related to either the causes or effects of climate change, gathered from World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and other governmental data sources (linked below). For this sketch, some of the scales are physical and some are projected, but in future iterations they would all be physical. The three scales to the left represent the disproportionate contributions that the US and India are making to different aspects that drive climate change. The first scale demonstrates that the United States consumes more meat than India per person, which leads to increased methane emissions from agriculture. The second scale represents car ownership per person in each country, with the US again having significantly more vehicles per person than India, which contributes to CO2 emissions from fuel use and exhaust. The last scale representing cause shows percentage of non-renewable energy that each country uses. The large majority of US energy consumption comes from non-renewable resources, while India utilizes a higher proportion of wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.

In contrast to the first three scales that are tipped towards the US, the fourth scale has the opposite slope. This visual contrast emphasizes the last scale, which represents the projected loss of GDP due to climate change. Despite the United States contributing disproportionately to many causes of climate change, the consequences of these actions will be felt more by countries that may have a smaller carbon footprint. This makes clear that the negative effects of climate change do not discriminate by which nation contributes most, and even countries that work hard to reduce emissions will still suffer the consequences of our collective actions.

The last scale invites visitors to ‘weigh’ their own contributions to climate change based on the amount of meat in their diet, and hopefully walk away with knowledge of how changes to their lifestyle might improve climate outcomes for those in the US as well as in other countries around the world who face the biggest threats from climate change.

Economic effects paper:

Renewable energy:


Meat consumption:


Cars per capita in 2015:



Branching Out Across New York

“Branching Out Across New York”

Team members:
Helen Bailey
Margaret Sands
Marc Esposito Gomez
Maddie Pelz

The data say that the number of trees, as well as the most common species of trees, differ across NYC’s five boroughs. These differences create very different landscapes that can impact the experience of each neighborhood. We want to tell this story because the more people know about the trees that make up their neighborhood landscape, the more invested they might be in appreciating or even becoming actively involved in taking care of the trees that surround them.

Our data source was the 2015 NYC tree census, which provided information about the number and species of each tree, as well as additional information about their health. We think that by showing the proportion of trees that are within each borough as well as dividing them by their most common species, people will be able to compare the landscapes of each borough. While this example infographic focuses on the borough of Manhattan, there will be a series of posters produced each with a focus on a single borough. The poster focusing on a certain borough will be displayed on bus stops and buildings around that borough, providing a point of comparison to the borough where the person is reading the poster with others around the city. The inclusion of images of leaves from the most common tree species in each borough invites interactivity of a sort of scavenger hunt to identify each species as they explore the borough. The additional facts about trees found in the highlighted borough also makes it fun to see the poster when you visit different areas, because each contains unique information relevant to your current location.

To illustrate the proportions of trees in each borough as well as the divisions of those trees into each borough’s top species, we utilized a tree map (pun only half-intended). This allows for both levels of analysis (between as well as within boroughs) to be observed in one visualization. In addition to this plot, rather than just listing the top species in each borough, an image of each of the top three tree’s leaves are shown extending from each branch. This visual representation adds additional information about the trees and how one might identify them while exploring each borough’s landscape. Over the course of the project we also identified the top issues that the trees in each borough face, but ultimately decided that the message and intended interaction with the infographic would be clearer if we limited it to a comparison story of tree landscape across the five boroughs.