Special Note: This week, June 17 to 23, 2013 we are celebrating National Pollinator Week. To keep abreast of what going on locally check out on Facebook National Pollinator Week in Champaign-Urbana or the calendar of pollinator events.
By Celina Trujillo
Pollination isn’t just about bees, other B’s do it too: birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. You and your kids can learn this and tons more at The University of Illinois Pollinatarium. The Pollin-what? The Pollinatarium! It’s a free science discovery center in Urbana devoted just to our pollinating friends. Now if you are squeamish about critters, have no fear. This is a perfect environment for your littles to learn about pollinators without coming face-to-face with one around every corner.
Young children will definitely enjoy the numerous interactive games and exhibits. While we were there, they had a honey taste-testing activity. It’s like wine tasting: go from darks to lights. Children can also explore the world of pollinators through arts and crafts with coloring or making something to take home. A friendly staff member taught us how to make a bee with beads. She also read my children stories, showed us the games, and answered all our questions. There are plenty of children’s books and games for your children to plunge into while making themselves cozy on flower-shaped mats. Also, outside there is a children’s garden and if your kids volunteer, they get a portion of the harvest.
Older children will learn a lot by walking through The Pollinatarium and reading the displays and exhibits. I particularly enjoyed the beekeeping equipment, both what is used now and ages ago. The photography on the displays are visually stunning. All are informative without being overwhelming. For a little fun in learning, pick up one of the clipboards at the entrance and find answers to questions throughout the pollinatarium.
If you are into seeing alive critters, there is one room in the back that has a demonstration hive of live honey bees that are well contained behind plexiglass. It is easily viewable as the frames are stacked singly on top of one another and you can see from both sides. This was by far my children’s favorite part, as we made a game of finding the queen bee, drones and workers. You can also see inside each cell to find honey, nectar, a pupa or a larva.
Hours and Cost: The Pollinatarium is FREE but only open on Saturday and Sundays from 1-4 or weekdays by appointment. This summer there are lectures on Sundays at 2 p.m.
Directions: The Pollinatarium is located at the end of a dirt road, best accessed off of Windsor Road between Lincoln and Race Streets.
Celina Trujillo has lived in Urbana since 1998, when she started attending the University of Illinois. Three degrees and one job later, she recently decided to put it all on hold to start homeschooling and homemaking full-time. Her blog, Squawks of a Mama Bird, records the learning process of this unexpected new adventure for her family.