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Adventure in a wildflower meadow

School pupils go equipped with scoop nets and magnifying glasses on a tour of discovery through grass and flowers. This campaign is Kiel Science Factory's contribution to the nature conservation project "Blütenbunt-Insektenreich" (colourful flowers-rich in insects).

Two bumblebees on a blossom
© Kieler Forschungswerkstatt

Bumblebees particularly like to fly to thistle blossoms.

What is buzzing, flying and crawling here? This is the question that school pupils in Schleswig-Holstein from the sixth grade upwards plan to get to the bottom of – right from ground level. They will investigate the freshly planted wildflower meadows next to their schools using scoop nets and microscopes – always on the lookout for small living beings: butterflies, wild bees and so on.

These little creatures are absolutely vital to our ecosystem: without insects, many fruit trees, bushes and even flowers would not be pollinated, which would have a negative impact on plant diversity, birds and other creatures would not be able to find as much food – and we would have to go without apples, berries and honey. Most people are well aware of these connections. However, today's children, young people and adults no longer necessarily know the names of the creatures that buzz and hum so usefully around our gardens. "For many people, everything that hops is a grasshopper and everything that buzzes and has a stinger is either a wasp or a bee," explained entomologist Katrin Schöps from Kiel Science Factory and the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN).

In order to offer clarification and promote conservation of insects and their diversity, Kiel Science Factory has established the nature conservation project "Blütenbunt-Insektenreich – Gemeinsam für Insekten in Schleswig-Holstein" (colourful flowers-rich in insects – working together for insects in Schleswig-Holstein), in collaboration with the Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein and the Deutscher Verband für Landschaftspflege (DVL). Since May 2020, the three partners have been busy conducting educational campaigns in schools, universities and the private sphere and implementing various conservation measures in both urban and rural areas.

Stiftung Naturschutz is coordinating the project, which has been granted €5 million in funding by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation under the Federal Programme for Biological Diversity. It is also responsible for activities in selected partner cities. The DVL aims to create and preserve habitats for butterflies, wild bees and other insects through campaigns in rural areas. Kiel Science Factory is getting involved at rural schools.

"We are collaborating with 20 partner schools," said Schöps, who is managing the project alongside entomologists Lennart Bendixen, Michael Scheer and Jasmin Colakoglu. To get started, wildflower meadows are being planted at schools. "These will be investigated by pupils in lessons or school clubs." The experts have put together tips on how to do this in campaign booklets. These include instructions on studying butterflies, wild bees and grasshoppers, and how to find out which flowers are particularly attractive to which insect. "You see, they are very picky," said Bendixen.

The team has created excursion boxes for the schools that enable the pupils to carry out field research. "They contain scoop nets, magnifying glasses, identification aids for wild bees, butterflies and insect groups and much more besides," said Schöps. Once a month, the experts also hold an insect consultation session for participants (see info box).

"The project will run until 2026," said Bendixen. "In this time, school classes will not only find out about the insects visiting the flowers in their meadow over the course of the year, they will also share their results online with other partner schools. We are also planning exchange visits between schools and outings," continued the entomologist. The IPN provides the whole project with scientific support and will assist the clubs at schools. Summer courses for interested pupils are also planned. Over the coming years, there will be advanced training courses and local excursions for teachers, added Schöps. "To begin with, however, we will start with the discovery tours through the flowers for classes of pupils."

Author: Jennifer Ruske

More Information:

Insect consultation sessions

Entomologists from Kiel Science Factory will be putting on a monthly consultation session within the framework of the project "Blütenbunt-Insektenreich" (colourful flowers-rich in insects). These will initially be geared towards the participating partner schools. The one-hour online session will provide teachers with expert support on species identification, useful tips and further information. By individual arrangement, classes of pupils will also be able to book a digital insect consultation session. There will also soon be a session for anyone interested in the subject. (JR)

Information and signing up:
Lennart Bendixen, bendixen@leibniz-ipn.de