Two rows of Lovin Elementary School second-graders sat entranced as they listened to Gwinnett County beekeeper Dave Collins talk about some of the characteristics of bees.
At one point he held up two photos. One showed a grocery store full of produce. The other showed what a store that had no produce looked like as an illustration of what the world would be like if there were no bees or other pollinators in the world.
But ultimately it was the eyes that brought the wow factor for the kids.
“Does anyone remember how many eyes a bee has,” Collins asked the students.
“Two,” one of them responded.
“Four,” said another.
“Nope ... the answer is five,” said Collins, prompting gasps from the kids. “Bees have five eyes on their heads.”
The lesson on bees was a primer for the real work that laid ahead of the students. They got a chance to conduct a bee census to help the University of Georgia Extension Service with its Great Georgia Pollinator Count, which took place across the state Friday and continues Saturday.
The goal of the count is to get a sense of how many pollinators — including various types of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths and other insects — currently exist in Georgia.
“This year, UGA is sponsoring the first-of-its kind statewide pollinator count,” UGA Extension Service Gwinnett’s Kim Fritz said. “We’re calling it the Great Georgia Pollinator Census ... It’s a citizens science program (and) there’s three main goals.
“One is the creation of more habitat. Another is awareness and the last is to create some baseline data for further study.”
Lovin Elementary School STEAM Content Coordinator Gerin Hennebaul said that although the students won’t reach the lesson on pollinators until the spring, the school wanted to participate in the count as a “preview to that unit” that lies ahead.
“When they go back to their classrooms, they’ll make graphs out of all of the data that they collect and they’re doing some literacy activities as well,” she said.
Students were broken up into groups of a four kids each and assigned an adult — either from the school, the Gwinnett Beekeepers Association or the UGA Extension Service — and assigned a spot in Lovin Elementary’s garden to look for bees and other pollinator bugs.
“Look there’s one,” a young student exclaimed as she pointed to a small bee climbing around on top of Black-Eyed Susan flower.
“What kind of bee is it,” her teacher, Stephanie Stry, asked. “Is it a carpenter bee?”
Later on, inside Ellen Lagasse’s second grade classrooms, students counted the number of each type of bee or other pollinator that they saw in the garden and colored in their graphs to illustrate those figures.
Lagasse also asked the students to explain what the counting exercise and the data they gathered taught them.
Some of them said bees should be protected.
“We should not squish the bees or fight the bees,” one little boy said.
Second-graders Kaliyah Strickland and Sabrina Mohammed, both 7, said they enjoyed the experience and found it interesting.
“I learned bees get the pollen to the plants,” Strickland said.
Mohammed added, “I learned bees like to come out when it’s sunny because it’s warmer.”
Lagasse said the participation in the bee count was a good opportunity for the students to do something different at school.
“We love to have opportunities to incorporate all different kinds of learning and it’s fun to do something different,” she said. “Today was the first day we went outside and had an outside learning day so it’s fun to be able to start our day and kind of break up the routine a little bit.”