Earlier this week, I blogged about my visit to the Fridheimar Greenhouses in Iceland. As I mentioned in that post, the visit sparked several curriculum/experiment ideas related to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). 

The first idea is tied to the standards in the LS2 category - Interdependent Relationships In Ecosystems. Within the Fridheimar Greenhouses, over 600 bees are used to pollinate the tomato plants. This is an excellent real-world example to illustrate concepts related to NGSS topics of pollination and mutually beneficial relationships.

Tomato plants have flowers that must be pollinated in order for the plants to bear fruit – pollination can happen by the wind, via bees, or manually with people using special blowers or vibrating tools. Students can learn about these processes by reading these two web pages that provide an overview of bumblebee and manual pollination.

Within the Fridheimar greenhouses, bees are used for natural pollination. Students can hear about this process firsthand by watching a video (see timestamp 5:04) in which the Fridheimar owner discusses how the bees work in his greenhouse and shows the special hives he obtains from Natupol. Students can also read about the Natupol hives and see pictures of how they work on the Natupol website.

While reading and viewing videos is a great way to supplement classroom learning, the really important learning takes place via hands-on experiments.  My idea here is to obtain several flowering tomato plants for your classroom.

The first thing students can do is to dissect the flowers of the tomato plant to understand the parts of the flower involved in pollination. Next, the students can compare various pollination methods by isolating the type of pollination used on a given plant. For example one plant can be netted and placed in a windy area such that only wind pollination can occur. Another plant can be unnetted but protected from the wind such that only bee pollination can occur. Finally a third plant can be both netted and protected from the wind such that pollination only occurs manually by the students.

As the plants begin to bear tomatoes the students can compare various aspects of the three plants such as the yield of each plant, the size of the tomatoes, the color of the tomatoes, the taste of the tomatoes, etc. And you can even mix in some math by having students measure, weigh, and count yields that can then be plotted on graphs for comparison purposes.

Hopefully this sparks some ideas for use in your classroom.  If you have related ideas, I would love to hear them – laura at couragion.com.

 

Photo Credit: https://www.natupol.com/pollination-bumblebees/why-bumblebees/

Sources:

http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/bees-pollinate-tomatoes.html

http://www.lsuagcenter.com/portals/communications/publications/agmag/archive/2005/winter/pollinatinggreenhousetomatoeswithvibratorsblowers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSj8zGhNSFg

https://www.natupol.com/why-natupol/high-tech-hives/optimal-hive-design/

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