BUILD WITH BEES: BEESWAX

8-10 yrs old

Climate & Environment

Math & Economics

Science

Students learn how bees make and use wax, then they explore tessellation and perimeter-to-area ratios to find out why bees build hexagons.

Submitted By: Sarah Red-Laird

August 6, 2020

Skills

• Collaboration
• Communication
• Critical Thinking

External References

This 4-minute video from TED-Ed explains the math behind the efficiency of honeybees’ hexagons.

This 90-second video from National Geographic shows the waggle dance that bees perform to communicate food sources.

Supporting Files

Beeswax! What do the experts think?

Kids & Bees: Beeswax Teachers Guide

Learning Objectives

• NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns; Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
• NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking; Constructing Explanations
• NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
• CCSS.MATH: Ratios & Proportional Relationships, Grades 6 & 7
• CCSS.MATH: Measurement & Data, Grades K-5
• Understand the importance of beeswax in the hive: how it’s made, stored, and used
• Apply computational thinking to develop an argument for why hexagons are the most efficient shape for bees to use

Guiding Ideas

This project was developed with the American Beekeeping Federation’s Kids and Bees program. Explore three new worlds, created by Lifeboat, and use eleven new lessons to introduce students to bees' dynamic and fascinating roles in their own hives and in broader ecosystems. “Beeswax” is lesson 3/5 for the Beehive World.

Introductory questions

• Have you ever used beeswax? What did you use it for?
• Where does wax come from?

Student Activities

Introduction (whole class) 5 minutes

Turn students’ attention to the topic of beeswax using the first introductory questions above: have you ever used beeswax, and if so, what for? Guide the discussion to include candles, skin care products, lip balm, furniture polish, cheese rind, crayons, dental floss, envelope seals, waxed produce boxes, …

Then ask students where they think beeswax comes from -- guesses are great! After a brief discussion, show them the picture of a bee with wax scales on her abdomen here. Explain that bees eat honey to get nutrients and energy, and using those resources, they make wax scales in their wax glands. Share with students this amazing fact: it takes about 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax! If available, pass around 8 pound and 1 pound weights (or objects of approximately those weights) for students to feel the difference.

Tell the group that in today’s lesson, they will be learning about how bees make the very best use of this precious resource, so that they don’t waste any.

Minecraft Beehive (explore as individuals) 20-30 minutes

Direct students to load the Kids and Bees Minecraft world and travel to the Hive. Students will meet a scientist who will instruct the students to gather a bee costume, a camera, and a quill and paper from the chest. Students will transport to the hive and meet the NPC Bee Girl outside the hive and receive a welcome and introduction to the beehive.

Once they have arrived inside the beehive, and found the beeswax section, bee guide Isabella will tell students about hexagons in the hive by showing them the video “Why do honeybees love hexagons?”. Students may also visit with bees Luciana and Jada, who share information about beeswax, and how it’s used by both humans and bees.

Next, students visit Emma for directions on what to fill the comb with.

Finally, Victoria shares with students the video “World's Weirdest: Honey Bee Dance Moves” to learn about the waggle dance bees do on the comb.

When they are through building their honeycombs and filling them with eggs, bee bread, and honey, students return to the classroom for a tessellation activity.

Please note that other bee NPCs exist in Beehive World; students will interact with them in other lessons. Also note that many of the NPCs have videos to share, so make sure students have headphones. If the students are having difficulty finding the sections of the hive, they can just ask the queen to send them to where they need to go!

In-Class Exercise and Discussion (whole class, individual, and small groups) 30-60 minutes

Reiterate with students that it takes a lot of work and resources to make wax: bees can turn about 8 pounds of honey into just 1 pound of wax. That means, that if you were a bee, and you had to do all that work to make that wax, you would probably want to be as efficient as possible when building -- no gaps, no overlaps.

Total time - 55-95 minutes

Performance Expectations

This lesson will enable students to:

• Describe how bees make beeswax
• List bee and human uses for wax
• Defend hexagons as the most efficient shape for bees to use

Skills

• Collaboration
• Communication
• Critical Thinking

External References

This 4-minute video from TED-Ed explains the math behind the efficiency of honeybees’ hexagons.

This 90-second video from National Geographic shows the waggle dance that bees perform to communicate food sources.