Plants and Animals, Partners in Pollination

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity , Instructor Guide/Manual , Simulation , Activity
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This online unit explores the theme of the National Zoo's Pollinarium exhibition: how plant and animal partners interact to accomplish pollination. It is a series of three lessons that allow the learner to explore and develop an understanding of the relationship between flowers and bees to accomplish successful plant reproductions. Lesson 1: Identify the plant parts involved in reproduction, identify the animal (bee) structures involved in pollination, and demonstrate how pollen moves from the male stamen to the female stigma. Lesson 2: Interpret the links between pollination and food production. Lesson 3: Describe the complementary relationships between pollinators and the plants they pollinate, and identify adaptations that flowers have developed to "encourage" pollination. A PDF version also available at:

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS1-4 Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.

Clarification Statement: Examples of behaviors that affect the probability of animal reproduction could include nest building to protect young from cold, herding of animals to protect young from predators, and vocalization of animals and colorful plumage to attract mates for breeding. Examples of animal behaviors that affect the probability of plant reproduction could include transferring pollen or seeds, and creating conditions for seed germination and growth. Examples of plant structures could include bright flowers attracting butterflies that transfer pollen, flower nectar and odors that attract insects that transfer pollen, and hard shells on nuts that squirrels bury.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
These three lessons show a direct correlation between flower parts and the structures of bees that lead to successful reproduction in plants. The complementary relationship between pollinators reward for food and the plants reward of sexual reproduction is modeled. The website: will also address flower structures and pollination through an interactive website. Students can hold the misconception that structures in nature were designed for a particular purpose when, in fact, those individuals that had the best structure from random mutations were selected by nature to survive. The activity could be changed so that students find a plant that already exists and decide the type of pollinator that might be paired with it based on its structure or "create" their own flower for pollination.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The culminating analysis and assessments of each lesson supports the claims of the lessons objectives. Students could develop their conclusion to the lesson in the form of Claim/Evidence/Reasoning. The question that they answer could be "How do flowers and bees work together to pollinate plants?" They then could then use evidence from the activity.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Lesson 3 describes the complementary relationships between pollinators and the plants they pollinate. The learner will also identify adaptations that flowers have developed to "encourage" pollination.The educator should also bring in additional materials to show examples of pollinators other than bees that have this same complimentary relationship. The website: Pollination Adaptations, will provide the educator and learner with other examples.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The learner needs to provide additional examples of various pollinators and plant structures not included in the lessons. Use Using "probability" to describe the relationship needs to be addressed by the educator. More background information is found at

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The three dimensions work together to support the lessons. Elements of the disciplinary core are significantly addressed. Use of the lesson provides an opportunity for hands-on exploration performance expectation and the crosscutting concept of patterns can be used to describe cause and affect relationship. Grade‐appropriate elements of the science and engineering practice(s), disciplinary core idea(s), and crosscutting concept(s), work together to support students in three‐dimensional learning.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource provides guidance for teachers to differentiated instruction in the classroom to meet the needs of all learners. The resource also creates opportunities for students to connect their explanation of phenomena to their own experiences.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The activities assess student proficiency using methods, vocabulary, representations, and examples. The assessment piece should be further developed by the teacher. There are great group questions included and these need to be stressed in cooperative student-centered groups. To further develop this type of assessment, the teacher can conclude the group work with posters and "exit tickets".

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The lessons can be used online by the student or as a stand alone teacher directed lesson.