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