Let’s Make a Virtual Pollinator-Free Ice Cream Sundae

It’s not easy, because pollinators make most ice cream sundae ingredients possible in the first place. But you can try!

About the Activity

Pollinators support our food supply and are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat each day, including most of the delicious components of an ice cream sundae. That makes them essential to global food production, but unfortunately, many species of native pollinators are declining at an alarming rate.

This activity is designed to outline just how important pollinators are to the meals and desserts you love.

This activity is part of our 4-H at Home Native Bees Series. See the rest of the activities here.

Grade Level: 2—8
Topic: Environmental Education, Biology, Life Science
Estimated Time: 30-60 minutes

Brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Pheasants Forever, Inc., Quail Forever, Anna Swerczek; Habitat Education Program Manager, and USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

A butterfly pollinating a flower

Activity Steps

  1. Use scissors to cut out the individual sundae ingredients shown on the printout, and lay them all out in front of you.Did you know? One third (one out of three bites, or 33%) of our food needs pollinators to be produced.
  2. Now, choose your favorite ingredients and build your own dream ice cream sundae using the photos.

Did you know? Do you have a sweet tooth? Chocolate plants (cacao) need tiny pollinators called chocolate midges. These pollinators are a type of fly that visits the cacao flowers which grow on the stems of the plant.

  1. After you build your ice cream sundae, use the answer key to remove all ingredients that are made possible by pollinators.Did you know? Animals need pollinators too. Many animals, such as cows, need to eat plants for their food, and some of the plants they eat need pollinators. Dairy cows often eat alfalfa, which is pollinated by bees, and healthy cows use nutrients from their food to produce milk.
  2. After you remove all the ingredients that are made possible by pollinators, the ingredients left are the only items available to eat in a world without pollinators.Did you know? Most fruits that we eat require pollinators to transfer the pollen so that the fruit is formed. Crops like apple, blueberry, pear, and almond need or benefit from pollinators. Some crops like grape, peach, and wheat (used to make flour) have flowers that can pollinate themselves.
  3. Ice cream sundaes aren’t the only delicious food that relies on pollinators. Check out the entire list of pollinated plants so that you can learn about other popular foods made possible by pollinators.Did you know?  Insects are not the only pollinators. Birds, bats, lizards and even lemurs can be pollinators. For example, agave, an important crop in the southwest, is pollinated by bats.

Reflection Questions
Bonus questions to inspire wonder:

  1. Think about other food that you eat. What would your daily diet be like without pollinators?
  2. Do all plants need animal pollinators to make fruits and seeds?
  3. What are some ways you can educate others about the importance of pollinators?
  4. What are some things you can do to make more habitats for pollinators?
  5. Which ingredient in the ice cream activity were you most surprised to learn required the help of pollinators?
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Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.

Explore the everyday world around you. See how native bees make a difference in the foods we eat. These two videos are a great place to start, but also take a closer look outdoors, whether in a local pollinator garden, or in your own backyard:

Ice cream and bees video: https://www.kqed.org/science/1946996/this-bee-gets-punched-by-flowers-for-your-ice-cream

Leafcutter bees video: https://youtu.be/cHJ2nLADy7A

A man pollinating plants in a field

Career Connections

4-H youth explores electrical engineering in rural areas
STEM Careers

If you liked learning about the many foods that bees help to create, you might enjoy a career in STEM. STEM careers are exciting and rewarding, and you can pursue a STEM-related career wherever you live, whether you’re in a city, a rural community, or anywhere in between.

Watch this video and learn what it takes to be a toxicologist from Kimberly Hodge-Bell of Bayer Crop Science.

Shop 4-H Curriculum and Products

Shop 4-H offers university-backed STEM curriculum, educational kits, products and supplies to expand your knowledge of butterflies, insects and more.

Butterfly Bingo Game from Shop 4-H

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This bingo game comes with pieces for 2-6 players and makes learning about butterflies fun! Each card has facts about butterflies and their relatives. The first person to cover the selected pattern and yell "caterpillar" wins!


Butterfly WINGS Youth Curriculum from Shop 4-H

Butterfly Curriculum Youth Digital Download

Youth learn to identify the butterfly families and common butterflies.


Each purchase provides 1 access code.  All access codes will be emailed within one business day after processing.


Butterfly WINGS Leader Curriculum from Shop 4-H

Butterfly Curriculum Leader Digital Download

Find facilitator tips, activity guides, and additional resources for the Project Butterfly WINGS curriculum.


Each purchase provides 1 access code.  All access codes will be emailed within one business day after processing.


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Grades: 3-12


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No endorsement of these supporters' products or services is granted or implied by 4‑H. This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, AFRI - Education and Workforce Development project 2021-67037-33376.9

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