Who are the pollinators?

Nine children excitedly sharpen their pencils to write today’s date on the next empty page of their notebooks. Pollination is today’s theme! Miss Heather posed a variety of questions to start out class at the Alighieri Montessori school in East Boston.

climate nature class with 4th, 5th and 6th graders at the Alighieri Montessori School in East boston

“Who are the pollinators? Do you think we would still have fruits, vegetables, or food of any kind without them? What is their role?”

The kids’ faces lit up as Miss Heather projected a big beautiful butterfly on the screen.

“Butterflies!” They shouted.

“Where do butterflies live?”

“Eastie farm!!” The kids exclaimed delightfully.  “And Mexico!”

“Precisely” says Miss Heather. “And how can they live in both places? Because butterflies migrate, they travel just like birds.” The students waltz up to the whiteboard to write their answers as the next animal appears on the slideshow.

“Bats?! Bats are pollinators??” The kids exclaim. The slideshow continues with many more surprises including hummingbirds, lemurs, and buffalo.

The energy of the room shifts to concentration as Miss Heather passes out watercolor paper with the instruction to draw your favorite pollinator. All three classes of curious minds put their pencils to paper and created masterpieces of art with butterflies, birds and buffalo galore. The creativity and concentration of the kids was palpable, they were determined to do these pollinators justice.

I myself had forgotten the simple but profound dance of pollination is what gives us our sustenance. Being in class with these fifty elementary-school students served as a reminder for me that the earth gives us so much. There are seemingly limitless intricate processes that happen every day that allow us to live. Butterflies pollinate flowers, flowers turn into fruit, and fruit ripens with the help of the sun. When I remember all the steps required for a fruit to come into being, each taste becomes sweeter and I am filled with gratitude for Mother Earth, who gives so unconditionally to us. Robin Kimmerer writes,

How, in our modern world, can we find our way to understand the earth as a gift again, to make our relations with the world sacred again? I know we cannot all become hunter-gatherers – the living world could not bear our weight –  but even in a market economy, can we behave ‘as if’ the world were a gift?”

Robin kimmerer, braiding sweetgrass

And to wrap up the day, Miss Heather asks “How do we attract more pollinators?”

Mark, squirming in his seat, has an answer. “We have to understand the language of bees. We should learn their language and tell them we have flowers here.”

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