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Feathery friend?

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Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 9 – 11

Science topics:

Animals, including humans , Climate challenge

Take a much closer look at this familiar object. Can your class use their reasoning skills to work out what it is?

Run the activity

In this activity, the italic sections marked with the polar bear explain how you can link the children's learning to the Climate Challenge, and support the children to take positive action.

You will be zooming in and out of the image above – starting very close and stepping back slowly.

1. Start by asking everyone:

  • What do they think the image is and why?
  • What does the image remind them of and why?

2. Every time you zoom out, ask the class:

  • Can they describe the colours, shapes and textures?
  • What do they think the image is now – have they changed their minds?

Background science

When teaching children about the Climate Challenge, it is important that we give them the facts (age appropriately and sensitively). During your discussion, allow time for children to express their thoughts and feelings and have them validated.

Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair, not tiny feathers, called pile. This makes them look and feel fuzzy. Their yellow, orange and black warning colours make them very noticeable and can often protect them from predators.

Many people think that the two large, black oval shapes at the sides of the bumblebee’s head are its eyes. These are its compound eyes, made up of lots of small repeating eye parts called ommatidia. These help the bee to see ultraviolet patterns on the petals of flowers and guide them towards nectar. A bumblebee also has three simple eyes, or ocelli, which look like small black bumps arranged in a triangular pattern on the top of its head.

Bees are found on every continent except Antarctica. It's estimated that about one third of the food we need is dependent upon pollination by bees. Scientists are concerned that the populations of some bee species are declining in the UK. This could be because of habitat loss, climate change and the use of insecticides. Also, the well-meaning ‘save the bees’ messages have sometimes focused on honey bees (which are not in any danger) rather than wild bees such as bumblebees and solitary bees. Studies show that it is the wild bees who we rely on to pollinate our crops so providing wild bee nesting habitats is vital.

Take it further

After giving children the information they need about Climate Challenge issues, give them time to express how they feel, empathising with them and validating their feelings before taking it further.  


Learn more about bees, including how to recognise different species, with this excellent British Science Week resource. 

Have a go at our What’s going on? Busy Bee activity  or the Odd One Out, What’s inside flowers? to find out more about how a bumblebee uses its soft hair to collect nectar to turn into honey. There is also our Problem Solver, Design a bug hotel


Watch this fascinating BBC film about the important role bees have in food production. 

Discuss with the children what could be done to help and if there is a positive action they can take themselves. Explain that when lots of people carry out small positive changes, it can have a big impact overall.

Positive action 

What could your school grounds offer bees? You could make a bee bath for when they might be thirsty; a ‘bee hotel’ for solitary bees to live in or make a hibernating nest for a queen bumble bee to use over winter with either a buried tea pot or terracotta pot. Of course, planting a wild flower area (or using seed bombs) near these facilities would be perfect! For more ideas on small positive steps to help the planet, read our article on The Climate Challenge

Image credit:

USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via Flickr Public Domain 1.0

Kichigin via Shutterstock;