Fran van den Berg and Margot Law, NPA citizen science officers

We have been having an un-BEE-lieveable time with 60 students from Harrington Park Public School! As part of our new project, Bringing Back the Buzz to the Cumberland Plain Woodland, we piloted new lessons to inspire the next generation of conservationists to consider the role of native flowers and their pollinators in the ecosystem.

Harrington Park PS is an inspiring school when it comes to connection to the bush, with a native garden complete with a hollow-bearing remnant tree where students can engage in outdoor activities. It was in this setting that we went on a “native bee treasure hunt” and taught students to make mud-brick, bamboo, and drilled wooden blocks bee hotels in order to create more nesting site habitat for native bees around their school.

“I learnt so much new stuff today” was a comment by one of the year four students.

Other parts of our lessons focused on the link between pollinators and flowers, and how we need a diversity of flowers to support a diversity of pollinators. We thought one of the best ways to effectively teach these concepts was through games. We made model flowers of different shapes, sizes and colours, each complete with pollen and nectar. We then separated the students into different pollinator ‘teams’. Each pollinator team had a different length ‘mouthpart’ for accessing nectar, and could only visit flowers of certain plants. The game was a huge success with the aim of the game to collect as much nectar (while inadvertently transferring pollen between flowers) as possible. Even the butterflies, with their long unwieldy tongues enjoyed it, after being awarded an extra special ‘caterpillar energy bonus’ due to the energy they would have consumed as larvae!

“The program provided hands-on experiences for the students to engage in authentic learning opportunities. The students were always engaged and now have a deeper understanding of the purpose of flowers and the role of pollinators. “We are really looking forward to investigating pollinators in our school gardens” said Darren Martin, year four teacher at Harrington Park PS. “As a result, our school will be planting a lot more flowering plants of various colours for all pollinators.”

The NPA citizen science team looks forward to our next visit to the school, with an excursion to Harrington Forest planned for Term 2. Harrington Forest is the remnant bushland within walking distance of the school, where the Buzz project has started up a new local bushcare group. This excursion will allow the students to explore the diversity of native flowers and native pollinators living right next to their school, and demonstrate the importance of bushcare activities.

Bringing Back the Buzz to the CPW is supported by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust, in partnership with Camden Council, Campbelltown City Council, Liverpool City Council and the University of Sydney. If you are interested in viewing the lesson plans used for these activities, or have a primary class in South Western Sydney that you think would love to engage in these types of lessons, please contact Fran van den Berg (franv@npansw.org.au). For more information regarding joining bushcare groups in South Western Sydney or the Bringing the Buzz Back to the CPW project, please contact Margot Law (margotl@npansw.org.au or (02) 9299 0000).

bringing back the buzz
Examples of student work from Year 4 students at Harrington Park PS. These students needed to observe a flower, and describe and/or draw characteristics of their flowers that made them different from other flowers. 

Pollinator surveys, primary school visits and launching of new bushcare groups are all part of the Bringing Back the Buzz to the Cumberland Plain Woodland (CPW) project. This citizen science project aims to use native pollinators (bees and butterflies) as a way of promoting and determining the success of bush regeneration activities in the CPW. The project involves setting up new bushcare groups in the South Western Sydney priority growth areas, installing native bee hotels and planting appropriately sourced species for native pollinators. Bushcare groups participate in citizen science pollinator surveys to collect data which is used to evaluate the success of the project.