Monday, April 17, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Bees

Carter's class was learning about spring and part of that theme was learning about life cycles. They focused pretty heavily on insects and Carter became fascinated with bees. He came home asking me lots of questions about them and telling me what he knew. When I asked him if he'd like to do a learning theme on bees, he got really excited. I planned out the learning theme and we got started on it. Then we found out that he would also be spending that week talking more about bees at school. It was pretty cool that he was learning about the same topic at school that he was learning about at home. He really enjoyed that. This learning theme was one of my favorites we have done. Carter was really excited to learn about bees and I learned a lot during the learning theme as well. I think because I just had a basic understanding of bees and didn't know their life styles in depth, it was a fascinating learning theme for me. I even ended up reading an adult chapter book on bees on my own time. It was also fun because Carter became very concerned about bees and felt called to action. I related back to a book we had read about some students saving sea turtles and we came up with plans to help save honeybees which we were able to put into action.

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have revised our objectives to really hone in and focus on specific skills Carter will need to master before kindergarten and are appropriate to his age and development right now. I plan to continue to implement activities to practice and reinforce our previous objectives while putting more emphasis on our new objectives.  Some of them won't necessarily be targeted with specific activities during our weeks, but I wanted to list them to help me remember to practice them continually. I have added working on his name as his teachers at school have asked us to work on it at home and I want to remember to include working on it in some form during each of our learning themes. I'm also adding in a section for Elise now that she is a year old. I don't considers her bullet points objectives, they are experiences I want to make sure to expose her to frequently. Her experiences are listed below Carter as bullet points rather than numbers.

The highlighted objectives below are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:
  1. Begin to organize and focus on writing. (Dictate stories, plan out a story, draw pictures and scribbles to create a book).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors.  (I'm moving on to looking for a thumb and forefinger grasp with writing tools and holding scissors appropriately)
  5. Develop a better understanding of time (for example, be able to describe when things happen using morning, afternoon, night)
  6. Group objects based on a category (sort by defining feature).
  7. Count with one-to-one correspondence, begin to identify numerals, being to use ordinal numbers (first, second, last). 
  8. Recognize the letters in name, arrange them to spell name, begin to write name.
Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  • Play make believe/Imitate the behaviors of others (adults and children).
  • Know the names of and be able to point out body parts.
  • Groups things together by size or color/matches like objects, understands hard and soft.
  • Names common objects and is able to point them out.
  • Begin to hold writing tools and scribble spontaneously. Can draw a line. Differentiates between a circle and square.
  • Follows simple instructions (focusing on words such as in, on, beside, under).
  • Others: counts to two, refers to self by name. These I want to start to expose her to, but she isn't quite ready to master then yet.
  • Lowercase b was one of the letters Carter wasn't able to identify at school so we practiced with the letter Bb during our week on bees. Carter loved writing his Bb's on our special laminated notecards Opa gave us that go with the kindergarten reading curriculum he created. I also made the letters out of yarn on notecards so Carter could run his fingers over them and feel the letters as well as see and say them. I've noticed even if he doesn't touch the letters much throughout the week, just having them hanging on the door where he sees them every time we go somewhere has helped. All the letters we've worked on during our learning themes, he's been able to match to each other during activities where we match capital and lowercase letters. He's also been able to identify their names as well.
  • When I saw this flower name puzzle on a website I read frequently here, I saved it to use later. Then when Carter wanted to learn more about bees I knew it would be the perfect activity to do in order to practice his name and the letters in his name. When he was finished we used a toy bee to pretend to pollinate the flowers.
  • I created a bee sensory bin using beans as the base. I added in clothespin bees we made along with a pom pom bee I made during our life cycle learning theme. Then I hot glued some foam flowers to straws so the kids could make the bees pollinate the flowers.
  • During the week I cleaned out some shelves and found some pieces of packing we got in a package and saved in case I could use them for a learning theme. They were perfect to use as a pretend bee hive. I hot glued a plain piece to the piece with holes and we used it as a bee hive. Carter liked having the worker bees deposit nectar in the cells and he would also pretend the queen was laying eggs in the cell. It was neat to see him showing what he learned about bee hives and what the cells are used for as he played. We used it to talk about shapes a little bit. I asked Carter what shape the cells were in our bee hive and he said circle. Then I asked him if that is what shape they are in a real bee hive and he said no. We talked about hexagons and circles and how they look different and what also looks similar.
  • To practice with circles I helped Elise make a circle bee. I cut out one large circle and one small circle and helped her glue them together to make a bee. I pointed out the difference in size and we talked about how one circle was large and the other was small. I made sure to continuously use the word "circle" as we worked on making our bee. Then we added triangles to the back of the bee for stingers. I introduced the word triangle and discussed what the shape looked like. We made 3 different bees and discussed size again when we were finished. I pointed out which bee was small, which was medium sized, and which bee was large.
  • As we learned more about bees I asked Carter to compare bees to other insects. I asked him how bees are the same as other insects and how they are different. He pointed out that all insects have 6 legs but that bees have a stinger and they are a different color. I hadn't even thought of their stingers and was impressed when he mentioned it! 
  • I cut out yellow and black strips and drew the body of a bee so Carter could practice spelling his name. I wrote the letters of his name on the stripes and then had him glue them down to make his name on the bee. He drew to add a stinger and a head and then went on to draw flowers on the picture. Carter pointed out the stripes on the bee made a color pattern and we talked about that a little bit.

  • As we read books about bees Carter started to notice that bees are in danger. He decided we need to do something to help save the bees so we came up with a save the bees plan. As we were reading books and he was learning more about what bees need and how we can help bees he came up with ideas on what we can do to help. When he came up with an idea I'd write it down on our sheet. Once we had a list of ideas we decided the first thing we wanted to do was plant flowers in our yard that bees would like.
  • Carter got some practice with counting as well as recognizing numbers with a game we played. We made bees out of clothespins and he clipped the correct number of bees to a card with a number on it. I made cards for the numbers 1-10. He really enjoyed clipping the bees down and finding ways to get all the bees to fit on the card.
  • One day during this learning theme we were playing with our shape magnets and Carter decided he wanted to make a bee. We found a card with the shapes arranged to make what looked like a bee so we worked off that and made one together. It was fun talking about what shape we needed and what color it should be. We helped each other by describing where the shape needed to go in relation to the other shapes.
  • I wanted to label body parts of a bee like we had a sea turtle when we were learning about sea turtles. It's good to introduce Carter to labels so he understands their purpose while reading nonfiction text plus it gives him the chance to show off what he knows about their bodies. I decided rather than just doing it on a piece of paper, we'd make a poster that way Carter could add facts he knows about bees on the poster. He immediately got excited when he saw the poster and drew a flower so it looked like the bee was on a flower. He impressed me as we were working by knowing the head, thorax, and abdomen. He just wasn't quite sure how to say thorax and abdomen. By the end of the week he had those words down. When we were finished we showed Elise our bee and pointed out different body parts on the bee. Then I asked her to point out the matching body part on herself. I told her abdomen is another way to describe our tummy so she pointed out her tummy.
  • I found pictures of a bee's life cycle here. I showed Carter the pictures and read him the words to go with each picture. Then he cut them out and arranged the pictures in order, gluing them down on construction paper. We talked about how a bee's life cycle is a little different than the other life cycles we've talked about because the only bee that can lay eggs is the queen bee. In all the other species we've talked about any female can lay eggs. We counted the stages when he was done and then added the arrows from one stage to the next but made a note on the arrow from bee to egg that only queen bees can lay eggs.
  • I cut flowers out of different colors of construction paper. I showed Elise the flowers and told her the name of each color. Then I set down one flower of each color on the table. I'd show her the flowers in my hand one at a time and ask her to place it with the other flower(s) of it's color. She threw most of the flowers I handed her onto the floor but did match up a few so I just went with it. When we were done, I put the ones from the floor with the group they belonged with and we counted to see how many of each color flower we had.
  • Since we wanted to plant flowers that bees would like we decided we needed to do some research to find out what flowers native to our area are good for bees. We found a pollinator guide on our local zoo's website here. Then we went through the guide and chose some flowers that are good for bees and butterflies that Carter liked. We wrote them down and then Carter went shopping with Ty to find some flowers to plant in our yard.
  • Ty made a planter for our backyard so we could plant some flowers for bees. He had the wonderful idea to make it to where the kids could look out the window in the living room and see our flowers so they could hopefully watch bees and butterflies buzzing around the flowers. Carter had a blast transplanting the flowers and spraying them with water from our spray bottle. Elise just wanted to play in the dirt. We had planned to also transplant some wild strawberries that have been growing in our backyard but Carter and I tasted them and they were very bitter. Carter thought it was so gross he actually spit it out. He gave one to Elise and instructed me to tell him when she spit it out because he thought it would be so funny. Well she didn't spit it out and ended up loving it! She went along the patch in our yard pulling off strawberries and eating them.
  • A fun activity we used to do at school to illustrate pollination was eat Cheetos and then touch paper flowers to see how when small bits of something get on your fingers, they rub off onto other things. I showed Carter and explained to him that when I ate the Cheetos it was like when butterflies eat nectar from flowers and the pollen sticks to them. I showed him how I now had pollen on my fingers. I pretended my fingers were bees and I flew over to flowers, landing on them, and spreading pollen. I drew flowers on paper for Carter and Elise to use for their pollination activity. Carter enjoyed it so much he told Ty all about it when he got home.
  • To give Elise some practice with pointing out known objects I asked her to point out flowers and trees in various different situations. When we were reading books I'd ask her to point at the bee or the hive.
  • I had Carter plan out and dictate a story about a bee. He decided his bee would be a boy bee named Jace. He said he knew that only girl bees were worker bees but he didn't care and made Jace a worker bee. It was cute to hear his story as I wrote it down for him and he was so proud, drawing his pictures to go with the story. I put the book in our special basket full of books he has written and I saw him get it out a few times to read it. For the cover of the book I had him practice writing a lower case b and then asked him to draw two e's to write the word bee. I loved how he drew the 3 separate parts of the bee's body: head, thorax, and abdomen.
  • I was searching for the lyrics to the Baby Bumblebee song because I couldn't remember all the words and came across a cute idea. I loved this bumblebee balloon activity I found here. I filled two yellow balloons with flour by myself. Once they were tied up I showed Carter how I drew lines on the balloon with a permanent marker to make it look like a bee. He decorated his balloon to look like a bee and then he played with it once the marker was dry.
  • I showed Carter how I can use shapes to draw a bee. He then tried drawing his own bee. I really emphasized ovals, circles, and triangles as we worked. Carter didn't think he could draw a bee and I encouraged him to try anyway. Once he got going, he didn't want to stop and kept drawing bees all throughout the learning theme. We counted to see how many of each shape I used to draw my bee, I used 3 ovals, one circle, and one triangle.
  • We used clothepins and pipecleaners to create some bees. I wrapped the pipe cleaners around the clothespins and then Carter used our cool temp hot glue gun to glue a pom pom head one as well as googly eyes and pipe cleaner antennae. When we were finished we realized we needed wings. Carter cut some foam to make wings and I thought that was a great idea so I did the same.
  • Carter had enjoyed playing with his sea turtle puppet so much I decided to make bee puppets as well. I had him help cut strips out of paper to make our bees' stripes. He picked to cut yellow while I cut black. Then we glued the stripes down on a brown paper bag and added googly eyes and wings. Carter had a blast making the bee fly around to pollinate flowers and talk to people.
  • Carter did a couple bee crafts at school. On one he got to use a dabber marker to fill in the heads of bees as well as the petals of a flower. The other craft was a bee he made out of construction paper.
Special Snack:
  • I checked out a Winnie the Pooh cook book from the library thinking we might find a fun recipe with honey in it to make for our special snack. As I looked through the cookbook I came across "recipes" for colorful honey and flavored honey. I knew that was just too simple and wonderful to pass up. We first added some food coloring to honey and Carter loved that! He was so excited to try out some green honey. Then I thawed some frozen blueberries and strawberries. We put them in honey and mixed it all up to create flavored honey. All the special honey was a huge hit with Elise who ate them plain with a spoon. We had a biscuit leftover from dinner so I heated it up and put some blueberry honey on it, it was delicious!
  • When I was planning out our theme I thought about how I'd always buy honey sticks at the renaissance festival. I figured you could probably buy honey sticks so I started searching online to figure out where to buy them. That's when I came across a site with instructions on how to make homemade honey sticks here. I got really excited over the idea of making honey sticks and just couldn't wait to try it. The only tricky part was that the honey was thick so it was hard to pour into the straw. I combated that by mixing a little bit of the fruit juice into the flavored honeys so they were runnier. I'm not sure what the website would recommend because I just half read the directions which I tend to do most of the time. All I needed to know was that I could use straws and melt the end with a lighter so I could squeeze the straw together with needle nose pliers and they would melt together. Then I was off.
Make Believe:
  • We did a lot of playing with our toy bees as well as pretending we were bees. We would have the bees pollinate flowers and work in their hive to create honey. Carter is amazing with pretend play so I really just have to make sure I give him the time and opportunity to do it and he takes off with it.
  • We sang the version of Baby Bumblebee that I found here. I also followed along with the movements that went along with the song. I've always thought it was an odd song but Carter enjoyed it and loved doing the actions with his balloon bumblebee.
  • I found a game where you had to match up 3 bees inside their hive here. I thought it might be a little tricky for Carter but it was worth trying while sitting right next to him so I could help him. He tried really hard but didn't quite understand the concept and started getting frustrated so we moved on to something else.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • Our first trip was to visit our local nature center that has an actual bee hive. They have the hive inside set up with plexiglass so you can watch the bees at work inside their hive. They also have a clear pipe system set up so you can watch bees fly to and from their hive. It was pretty cool. We tried really hard to identify the queen bee but all the bees were so packed on top of each other, we just couldn't find her. There was also an area where you could try on bee keeper gear and pretend to blow smoke on a hive. The pretend hive had different slats you could pull out and look at different kinds of cells. Carter enjoyed it even more than I thought he would. I created some bee ten frames so I could introduce ten frames and we could keep track of how many bees we saw in a very organized way. Carter colored in each frame on the sheet because we saw so many bees there!
Using the smoker before getting out one of the frames.

Searching for the queen bee. It was still cold enough that they were all huddled together.
  • We also used our bee ten frames to go on a backyard bee hunt. Carter picked a color marker to use and I clipped our record sheet to his clipboard. Each time he saw a bee he colored in a frame on one of the ten frames. When he was finished we talked about how many squares were colored in and how many were still blank, referencing back to 10. It was a lot of fun! When I first planned to go on multiple bee hunts and compare our data to see which place had the most bees, I planned to just make tallies. When I thought about it more I decided something easier than tallies would be better for Carter, like something to color in. That's when I thought of 10 frames because it is a great way to introduce 10 frames and talk a little bit about sums of 10. It would also organize our data in a way that would be very simple for counting purposes. I just used a blank 10 frame template and then put a picture of a bee inside each frame. We also went on a bee hunt during a hike at Turkey Mountain. We took all three of our recording sheets and compared them to see where we found the most bees.
  • Busy Garden by Jack Tickle
  • The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
  • Who's in the Garden by Bath Book
  • Curious George: A Home for Honeybees by Julie Tibbott
  • When the Bees Fly Home by Andrea Cheng
  • Thomas and the Buzzy Bees by W. Awdry
  • What If There Were No Bees? by Suzanne Slade
  • The Beeman by Laurie Krebs
  • UnBEElievables by Douglas Florian
  • The Buzz on Bees by Shelley Rotner
  • The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees by Bethany RobertsSandra Merkle
  • Honeybees by Jill Esbaum
  • The Life Cycle of A Honeybee by Bobbie Kalman
  • Honeybees by Martha E.H. Rustad
  • Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil
  • The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi
  • Honey In A Hive by Anne F. Rockwell
  • Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski
  • Flight of the Honey Bee by Ramona Huber
  • Jam and Honey by Melita Morales
  • The Magic School Bus: Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole
  • It's A Good Thing There Are Bees by Lisa M. Herrington
  • Bees Up Close by Katie Franks
  • Busy Buzzers by Nancy Loewen
  • Bee Detectives by Rosie Albright
  • From Flower to Honey by Robin Nelson
  • The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons
  • The Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook by Virginia H. Ellison
  • Plants in Spring by Martha E. H. Rustad
  • Animals in Spring by Martha E. H. Rustad


  1. All very interesting. Where did you find the most bees?

    1. We found the most at Oxley Nature Center because they had a hive. We also looked at home and found 5 bees. We didn't find any bees at Turkey Mountain and we got so excited about searching for bunnies at the Botanic Garden that we forgot to look for bees there. I think it's still a little early since it was a little chillier the week we did this theme.