Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BioSim at the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville

A post by Alex Dailey and Sam Lorentz

A couple of weeks ago the Creativity Lab’s BioSim Project ran some preliminary testing at the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville. Our team used this time to critique our research methods.
The BioSim team spent four days with the kids at the Club.  They closely examined how the kids reacted to each part of the exercise. Over the four days the kids learned about how honey bees feed themselves by collecting nectar and making it into honey.  The kids then simulated this process with electronic bee puppets.  They took turns searching for flowers with the most nectar.  At first their nectar searching was random.  Each kid spent a lot of time searching through each flower to find the ones that had more nectar.  Many times the kids searched so long that their bees ran out of energy and died before they could make it back to the hive.  We began to teach them that bees communicate the location of nectar with each other.  At first we let the kids tell each other where to find the most nectar.  This time they collected more nectar and none of the bees ran out of energy.

Honey bees communicate by dancing.  The do a sort of waggle up the middle then either turn right or left and loop back.  By doing this they communicate to other honey bees the distance and direction of flower with a lot of nectar.

waggle-dance.jpg       https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Bee_waggle_dance.png
The waggle dance: By doing their dance, honey bees communicate to each other the location of flowers with lots of nectar based on the angle between the sun, hive and flower.

We challenged the kids to create their own dances to tell each other where the flowers with the most nectar were.  At first the kids had trouble gathering their thoughts.  Some kids tried to make up dances as they went along and others didn’t know what dance their hive was doing from the beginning.  As time went on they learned that without a descriptive dance that everyone could understand, they weren’t effective at collecting nectar.
On the final day of our visit one girl took her bee dance to the next level.  She took it upon herself to teach the rest of her hive a dance that mimicked the one that the actual honeybees do.  She wiggled up the middle then looped back either on the left or right to signify the direction and distance of the flower with the most nectar.  As a result of her creative thinking her hive collected more nectar and won the competition.  

By the end of our time with the kids it seemed like they had grasped a strong understanding of the complex system of honey bees. The world is made up of complex systems, which makes it imperative that students learn to understand them.  Young kids are continually underestimated in their cognitive abilities yet they are able to understand the complex system of honey bees.  


We were pleased with how our preliminary testing went last week but we also discovered multiple things for us to improve upon.  Thanks to the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville, we are one step closer to a successful implementation.

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