What’s all the buzz about?
On April 24, the media center at Claxton Elementary School on Merrimon Avenue swarmed with students celebrating the school’s third annual Bee Day. Organized by media coordinator Amy Brown, the event marks the anniversary of the installation of an observational beehive in the school’s library. For the celebration, kindergarten through fifth-grade students dressed up like bees, worked on bee-oriented projects and spent time watching the bees do their thing.
The school’s observation hive was funded through a grant from the Bee Cause Project, which encourages honeybee educational programs. “It’s really interesting what the hive has brought to our school,” Brown says. “When it first came it was not uncommon at all to have kids look at it say and say ‘Oh those bees are going to sting me! Oh I don’t like them!’ Nobody says that now; the kids teach each other about it. We have a kindergartener who has always been afraid of bees who came through on the tour this morning. She said, ‘Miss Brown I’m not afraid of bees anymore, I like bees.'”
Every year, fifth-grade science classes complete a special Bee Day Project as part of their science curriculum. Last year’s fifth graders partnered with Asheville Greenworks to create a pollinator garden at the entrance to the hive. “We figured out the native plants our honeybees would thrive on. They planted this garden and built the fence to keep people out of the flight path and avoid accidental stings,” explained Brown.
This year, the fifth-grade classes acted as tour guides for groups of younger students throughout the day. Groups were led on a “bee line” through the media center that stopped at several different stations, including a coding station that uses circuit boards and poetry, a video created by the kindergarten classes and the pollinator garden. Other fifth graders shared presentations about different aspects of bee society and the impact of humans on pollinators.
Students also got a chance to meet real beekeepers. Cathy Peerless, John Wood and Tricia Johnson from the Buncombe County Beekeepers Club gave demonstrations in bee anatomy, honey tasting and trying on a beekeeper’s hood. Johnson is also the mother of a third- and a fifth-grader at Claxton and has managed the school’s hive year-round since its installation. “In the summertime, I probably come in every two or three weeks to check the hive and make sure that they’re not busting at the seams and I don’t need to add or divide them,” says Johnson. “Since it’s an observation hive, we don’t have to go in too often and look at them like you would in a enclosed hive, to see if there’s disease or drastic population decline or increase, so it’s convenient in that way.”
The focus of this year’s Bee Day Project is how humans affect pollinators. “We thought, ‘We’re an arts school, let’s take this fence and figure out what kind of art installation we can do to help advocate for pollinators and make it bee-attractive,’” said Brown. The fence is now covered in large colorful flowers made from plastic cups and bottle caps of different sizes. “Our kids worked on these art projects using upcycled materials and colors that are attractive to pollinators. Today, our art teacher and the kids are working on making a worker bee and a queen bee which will also be part of the installation. It continues to ‘bee’ a work in progress,” she said.
All photos by Cindy Kunst.