MBKA visit to Churchstoke Primary School

The BeeHolder, July 2009

“Fantastic! Amazing! Completely fascinating!” Those were just some of the comments from my teaching colleagues following a recent visit to school by the association’s new demonstration hive; the children, of course, were equally excited and enthusiastic! A beautiful sunny morning enabled us to use our outdoor classroom area which meant we could light a smoker and do a ‘real’ hive inspection with children dressed in suits and gloves, making the sessions more realistic than if we had been indoors.

I had already done a mini-topic on bees as part of our local harvest study last autumn with my class (9-11 yrs), so the hive provided an excellent opportunity to revise and extend the children’s understanding. The infant children are studying ‘minibeasts’ this term and had spent two days learning about bees through a range of multisensory activities prior to the hive session. Both groups were totally fascinated with every aspect of the session and I was impressed at how quickly they behaved like real beekeepers, handling the frames confidently and talking about what they could see. Spotting the queen and queen cells on the frame proved great fun.

We ended the sessions by opening a jar of my spring honey (thank goodness it’s been a better year!) and having a taste; it was surprising how many honey-haters were converted to the ‘real’ thing and came back for a second helping.

Excuse the pun, but there was a real ‘buzz’ in the staffroom when we had finished; two members of staff are now seriously considering taking up beekeeping with their children and will hopefully be able to attend the association’s final apiary opening in September to experience live bees.

Overall impressions? The virtual (demo) hive is a brilliant teaching tool which makes the life of the honeybee and beekeeping accessible to a wide age-range of children (and school staff, too). With thoughtful preparation and follow-up activities, it offers teachers an excellent opportunity to bring learning alive and MBKA the chance to get some important messages into schools and encourage a new generation of apiarists. Many thanks from all of us at Churchstoke School, especially to Brian Norris for loaning the bits and pieces to make a complete hive and to Bill Gough for bringing the hive in and answering the children’s questions. Now, of course, the children are clamouring to see some real bees next time…!

(Cover picture shows use of virtual hive at Churchstoke School)

Liz Farrington