Science center helps launch Farmers Market season with lessons on bees, chess

What do chess and bees have in common? 

Both were subjects of activities at the Homewood Science Center on Saturday, May 26, in conjunction with the first summer season Farmers Market. 

Homewood bee enthusiast Christina Lindstrom offered a mini-Pop Up Science activity. She helped youngsters learn about pollination by "being bees." She had an array of different colored flower-shaped recepticals filled with beads of colors matching the flower. 

Children performed the role of bees, picking up "pollen" beads from one flower and depositing them in another, creating a multi-colored collection.

The "bees" then became scientists recording the results of the pollination work on a nearby chart while Lindstrom explained the importance of the process as it unfolds in nature. 

"The more pollination, the better for us and for them," she said, referring to humans and plants. "We need the bees to pollinate the flowers (and plants) so we can get yummy food."

Lindstrom had a different approach for older children at the event, telling them about the plight of the rusty patched bumblebee.

It was once one of the most common bees in the upper Midwest and Northeast, but in a relatively short time, its population plummeted by 70 percent, Lindstrom said, resulting in the insect being placed on the endangered species list.

The cause of the population decline has not been pinpointed, she said, but it is generally attributed to loss of habitat, climage change, farming and pesticide use.

After a bee lesson, families could move into the science center's Michael Wexler Theater, for some chess practice with Cook Williams and his sons, Joshua and Elijah, of Bright Knights, a chess, creative arts and tutoring service.

Duncan Thetford, 5, of Homewood, played his first ever game of chess against Joshua Williams.

"We have a tie," Williams said. "Your first time, and you tied the teacher."

Other young players were more experienced. Two boys facing off across the room were members of a Bright Knights Chess Club.

Cook Williams said the company, at the request of a local parent, helped organize a new Homewood chess club at the science center that met for about 10 weeks during the winter months. It attracted eight members, which he said was a nice size for a chess club, especially a new one. 

The next Pop Up Science session will be "Metal Mania" from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, at the science center, 18022 Dixie Highway. The activity will be sponsored by Gaby Iron & Metal Company, Homewood Disposal and Governors State University.

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