by Mira K.K., photos by Edgar Rene Hernandez & students

In early May, Renate Sander-Regier, a professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics at the University of Ottawa and a founding member of Wild Pollinator Partners, taught an enrichment mini-course for middle-school students: ALL about pollinators. With the help of Ottawa U students Mira and Luca, participants learned about native pollinators, including their importance and impact in our daily lives.

Class time was filled with short documentary films and lectures on pollinators.

In class, students also learned how to identify major pollinator taxa based on their physical characteristics by observing preserved specimens. Over time, the students began to develop an appreciation for the immense impact pollinators have on the environment.

Preserved specimen shown in-class to help explain how to identify individual pollinators.

During the week-long course, students visited the Fletcher Wildlife Garden (FWG) twice. On Tuesday, they explored the area, learning about the importance of pollinator habitat and seeing real-life examples of it. On Friday, they helped with chores: weeding Garlic Mustard and potting up native plant seedlings.

The class walking through the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.


A student admiring some of the plants ready to be potted for the FWG’s annual native plant sale.

Students even had the opportunity to observe pollinators in action – despite the slow start to this season! This especially peaked students’ interest, as they were very excited to observe live specimens, have a go at identifying them, as well as uploading their photo evidence to the FWG’s iNaturalist group.

A great photo of a pollinator taken by Morgan, a student.

Sandy, a volunteer at the FWG, taught students how to make mason bee shelters out of inexpensive, recycled materials such as milk cartons and scrap paper. After showing students the large number of bees that were able to overwinter in the boxes at the FWG insect hotel, students really looked forward to being able to make their own and take them home for their own gardens.

Sandy showing students some of the Mason Bee cocoons that overwintered in a shelter at the FWG.


Students eagerly assembling their own mason bee boxes.


A student’s finished Mason Bee box.

All in all, it was a really busy week filled with lots of learning, but also lots of fun! Big thank you to Sandy Garland for hosting the students at the FWG and helping them learn about pollinators in an engaging, hands-on manner. It is safe to say that we have some new pollinator alliances!

See also Luca Fiorindi’s blog post on the mini-course experience: Students meet pollinators II.

Mira is a student in the last year of her BSc program in Environmental Science at the University of Ottawa.

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