Beehives Take Flight: “Honeybee Heroes” and apiary-based education in the Pacific Northwest

by Katie Boehnlein

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Iwithbeen recent years, there has been an audible buzz, on both the community level and in the media, about the future of pollinators. In 2009, CLEARING asked you “Why Care About Pollinators?”  and the issue is still hot today. The future of the honeybee is especially worrisome, due to their direct impact on America’s commercial food system (not to mention the sweet honey that they make).  Over the last ten years, beekeepers across the country have been using the term “Colony Collapse Disorder” because of a noticeable decline in their healthy hives. Recent studies on pesticides in agriculture, as well as reports of significantly reduced pollinator habitat and increased pests, have left beekeepers and bee lovers alike horrified.

bee2The Pacific Northwest has been especially featured in these news reports, as mass bumblebee deaths in the Portland, OR suburbs of Wilsonville and Hillsboro received national exposure. Both of these instances were due to ill-timed application of pesticides to ornamental trees growing in commercial parking lots. Dewey Caron is a retired entomologist but actively keeps bees and teaches at Oregon State University’s horticultural department. In his recent Hillsboro Tribune article, “Who will speak for dead bees?”, Caron speaks about these tragic events near his home. He especially speaks to the need for citizens to “educate ourselves about pollination’s role in our lives and what consequences pesticides might play in normal functioning ecosystems.” The health of pollinators, honeybees among them, is clearly at great risk. And as Caron says, it is also clear that education must step into its role of not only enlightening our country’s decision makers and agricultural stakeholders about the necessity of pollination but our next generation as well.

Catlin_BrianHoneybee Heroes

Luckily, educators in the Western region have rallied around issues facing pollinators. From 
Washington to Oregon to Montana, teachers and administrators have recognized the importance of connecting their students to pollination through their studies of insects and food systems. Some have even gone a step further, installing beehives on their campuses and exposing students to an incredible ecosystem buzzing with tens of thousands of honeybees. CLEARING has sought out these “Honeybee Heroes,” educators who are exposing students of all ages to the wonders of honeybees. Stay tuned for our five-part series, where you will learn and be inspired by the stories of Eric, Ryan, Sarah, Carter, and Brian, all speaking to the impact they have seen in using beehives, or apiaries, as hands-on educational sites and their experiences in establishing successful educational models in schools.

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Mt Vernon, Washington

First you will hear from Eric Engman, a high school physics teacher in Mt. Vernon, WA who has made it possible for students to really “see” the inner workings of a beehive.

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Southern Oregon University

Our second installment will be about Ryan King, a recent graduate of Southern Oregon University, where he has established a successful apiary project at the university and beyond.

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Ashland

Third is Sarah Red-Laird, also known as “Bee Girl,” an Ashland, OR native who has returned to her hometown to foster a “sweet” relationship between people and honeybees.

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Portland

Next is Carter Latendresse, a sixth grade English teacher at Catlin Gabel School in Portland, OR who kickstarted a successful apiary project on his campus in harmony with the school’s garden and orchard. Coming October 21.

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Finally, Brian Lacy is a beekeeper in Portland, OR and founder of LiveHoneyBees.com, an educator who has proven himself as an invaluable mentor for Portland-area beekeepers young and old. Coming October 28.

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Katie Boehnlein is a writer/intern for CLEARING magazine. She is currently student teaching at the Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon, and she writes a nature blog at http://kboehnlein.wordpress.com/.

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Pollinator Education Resources

by Katie Boehnlein

Are you buzzing to get your hands on a hive tool? These resources below will get you started on connecting your students to the wonders of pollinators. If you’re looking to start a beehive on campus, start by contacting your local bee club to see when they offer beginning beekeeping classes.

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Educators at a pollinator education workshop in Kalispell, MT put on by the Montana Pollinator Education Project.

Montana Pollinator Education Project (MPEP)

Visit the Montana Department of Agriculture (http://agr.mt.gov/agr/Programs/AgClassroom/LessonPlans/SchoolProjects/K-8montanapollinator/ ) website for full lesson plans, posters, seed packets, and parent outreach materials about pollinators for educators to use free of charge! For educators in Montana, the MPEP puts on workshops on how to integrate pollinator education into their existing science, language arts, and arts curriculums. The response to this project has been overwhelmingly positive, as the MPEP have been sending kits to teachers all across America; they have even had requests from overseas! All lesson plans are aligned with the Common Core standards, so teachers can easily fit the writing assignments into their existing curriculum.

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USFWS Biologist Jeff Chan shows a honeycomb to students at GruB in Olympia, WA. Photo credit: Teal Waterstrat (USFWS)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Pollinator Education Program

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers extensive educational information about pollinators on their website, from activity guides to PowerPoint presentations to a guide for creating schoolyard habitats. (http://www.fws.gov/pollinators/ ) The Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington State has also fostered a rich relationship with an alternative high school farming nonprofit called Garden Raised Urban Bounty (GRuB) in Olympia, WA. Fish and Wildlife biologist, Jeff Chan, has given classes and placed hives at their farmhouse, which has culminated in twenty of the students tending one of the hives themselves. The farm school will be integrating beekeeping into their school’s curriculum in the years ahead. Read more about this partnership on the blog for Fish and Wildlife Service members in Washington State. (http://wordfromwild.blogspot.com/2013/06/how-sweet-it-is-fws-teaches-students.html )

The Pollinator Partnership

The Pollinator Partnership is a nonprofit organization that aims at protecting the health of managed and native pollinating animals living in North America. They offer a comprehensive pollinator education program for grades 3-6 called “Nature’s Partners,” along with many other resources available for free on their website! (http://pollinator.org/beesmart_teachers.htm )

The Xerces Society

The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. For over forty years, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs. They feature some great resources for educators on their website, spanning information about school gardens to native bees to pollinator identification sheets (http://www.xerces.org/educational-resources/ ).  The Xerces Society also provides information on citizen monitoring, a wonderful, real-world science activity to do with students. One idea would be to follow the “Great Sunflower Project” curriculum, which involves planting sunflowers and observing pollinators that visit them. (http://www.greatsunflower.org/)

Immense Possibilities

Last year, Southern Oregon Public Television aired an inspiring 30-minute video called “Bees: nurturing the tiny connectors of sustainability,” featuring our “Honeybee Heroes” Sarah (BeeGirl) and Ryan King. (http://www.immensepossibilities.org/ipr-podcasts/bee-keeping ) “How can we help the bees survive?” they ask. It’s up to us to answer.

College Beekeeper

This website, managed by Michael Smith of Cornell University, is aimed at college students who want to start a student beekeeping program. An incredible resource with step-by-step advice, College Beekeeper could be adapted for an elementary or middle school context as well. It also calls for action: “With pollinators declining, and beekeepers aging, it’s essential to get younger people involved in beekeeping.” (https://sites.google.com/site/collegebeekeeper/)

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Photo credit: Studio Matthews

Seattle’s Pollinator Pathway

For Seattle-area teachers, the Pollinator Pathway project aims at creating continuous habitat where pollinators can thrive. The current pathway “draws a line of plant life” for one mile along Columbia Street in Seattle and is an inspiring artistic and scientific model for creating pollinator habitat within a city. This would be a neat idea for teachers looking to connect their pollinator education to art and mapping studies! For more information, visit the Pollinator Pathway website. (http://www.pollinatorpathway.com/ )

2 Responses to Beehives Take Flight: “Honeybee Heroes” and apiary-based education in the Pacific Northwest

  1. Melissa R Poulin September 28, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks for an excellent article, Katie! I appreciate the extensive list of resources, and your succinct overview of the pollinator crisis. Writers and educators like you give me so much hope.

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  1. Ruffling my wings | in the midst - November 14, 2013

    […] with them and was lucky enough to research teachers who are using beehives in school settings. “Beehives Take Flight: ‘Honeybee Heroes’ and apiary-based education in the Pacific… turned out to be a multi-part series and profiles some pretty inspiring people that I am honored to […]

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