Back in October, students in grades 1-5 at Antwerp Elementary took the classroom learning outdoors for the day for their first annual Prairie Day. This first-time field day took place at the pollinator prairie garden that was headed up by Antwerp educator Linda Mabis and located next to the school campus. Students rotated between two stops, with one stop being conducted by Paulding SWCD staff and the second stop being provided by Jamie Walters of the Black Swamp Beekeepers Association, with the overall theme being the importance of pollinators and why we need them.

Patrick Troyer and Tayler Coy of the SWCD Office focused their discussion on the process of pollination, why pollinators are needed for plants to successfully grow, and efforts that can be made to support the survival of pollinators. Who are these pollinators and why do they spread pollen? When plants are in the process of reproduction, they are making seeds that are packed with all the information that the new seedling needs in order to grow. Some plants have all the information they need to pack their seeds, while there are some that need additional information. The additional information comes in the form of pollen that comes from another plant.

How does this pollen travel? That is where pollinators come into play. The primary goal of a pollinator is not to transfer pollen but to look for food known as nectar. When they visit the flower in search of nectar, pollen produced by the plant sticks to the body of the pollinator, which then visits another flower, thus spreading the pollen. Many animals help to spread pollen such as various birds, bats, ants, lemurs, butterflies, and even humans.

Pollinators are widely known to be responsible for one out of every three bites that we eat each day. Students in grades 1-3 took part in an activity called Pollinator Pizza to learn how pollinators are connected to the foods we enjoy daily. In this activity, students were tasked with building a pizza loaded with all their favorite toppings. Everyone loaded their favorite toppings such as meat, peppers, onions, spinach, mushrooms, pineapple, olives, chilies, and more. How many of these toppings rely on pollinators?

Once all the toppings were loaded on the pizza,students were asked what would happen to the pizza if pollinators disappeared from the Earth. Some of our toppings might not exist.The following toppings on a supreme pizza would no longer exist if pollinators were no longer here: pizza sauce, cheese, peppers, onion, olives, chilies, artichoke, tomatoes, and garlic. Meats would stay, as there are some other options to feed livestock, but it could be more expensive. Mushrooms would stay because they are a fungus, not a plant, that does not need pollinators to survive. Spinach and pineapples would stay because they are self-pollinated, so they do not need pollinators to finish making their seeds.

Students in grades 4-5 took part in a different activity where they increased their familiarity with the various animals that are classified as pollinators. They took part in a “Pollinator Get to Know YOU” activity where one student had a card with the name of a pollinator clipped to their back with the task of determining their identity by asking a series of yes/no questions. Their partner had facts about each of the different pollinators and helped provide clues to the mystery pollinator until they could guess who they were.

Thank you to Antwerp Local Schools and Linda Mabis for having us out for a wonderful day outside at a beautiful prairie garden.If your classroom or local group would like something similar to this, please contact the Paulding SWCD office at 419-399-4771 or patrick.troyer@pauldingswcd.org.

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