School for Bees A customisable scheme to engage children with the natural world
Honeybees are fascinating creatures with a complex structure and life style however they are under threat from mankind’s activities. Even with all the information in the media the honeybee still has her mysteries. I am interested in giving young people the opportunity to experience honeybees for themselves. Opening a honeybee hive and investigating the inner working never fails to leave a bookmark in a students memory. Interacting with honeybees can be used to reward behaviours, increase confidence, engender co-operation within the student body and instill respect for other creatures.
The full scheme is presented below. The options to modify the scheme follow the presentation. The options described are open to adjustment to suit the school's circumstances.
To begin a discussion email me at email@example.com
The School for Bees scheme has been in operation for the past four years in three Leicestershire and one Derbyshire school. One in an inner city location, the others in a semi-rural location. A modified School for Bees was run as a social engagement project with Black to Green funded by the National Forest. In each case the school has found the benefits of having bees on site go further than the class immediately engaged in learning about the bees. The scheme can be customised as we understand the competing issues around budgets, location and the perception of risk,
If you are Home Schooling continue to read on as your particular issues are addressed.
The first thing to know is that School for Bees is delivered as a service. That is to say the bees remain the property of The Bee Farmer ltd and as such the public liability is borne by the company. This arrangement relieves the school of issues surrounding ownership, insurance and end of scheme disposal. I have an DBS enhanced certificate.
The Gold Standard School for Bees is delivered in eight sessions over the two school years. The practical, academic and husbandry is delivered in the winter/spring terms of one year with the harvest, processing and marketing in the autumn after the return to school.
The reason is that the peak time for honeybee activity is during the summer holidays. By selecting a cohort from the middle of the school population the students have a continuity to see the scheme from start to finish.
School for Bees also dovetails into The Soil Associations Food for Life scheme.
The School for Bees scheme helped Sir John Moore School acheive their Gold standard award from Food for Life in 2022.
School for Bees scheme The scheme outline can be downloaded. Click HERE
Session 1 Introduction Date – before hive build (Long form & short form version of the induction)
What is an insect?
An introduction to different types of bees. Bumblebee, Honeybees, Solitary bees, Wasps
Explain life cycle of the honeybee.
Explanation of key elements Body parts, legs & wings.
Draw, cut out and colour in honeybee.
Lots of interaction, honey comb to feel and smell, time for Q&A
Homework/competition – spot the first flying insect – what is it – where and when?
Session 2 Hive build
A complete hive in flat pack is delivered to the school
Safety use of tools explained and discussed
Build hive, build frames and wax.
Break group into three work stations.
Station 1 build a super or brood box. Stations 2 & 3 builds frames. At the end of each box build the groups are rotated
The outer faces of the hive does not normally need weather protection. However painting the hive gives a sense of ownership and to prolong the life of the hives. The completed hive is left with the school. The class can decide how to decorate the outer faces of the hive. There is a scientific reason the paint hives. Honeybees recognise shapes and colours. Painting hives allows the bees to find their hive where there is more than one hive from which to choose.
Search "Painted beehives of Slovenia" for examples. However block colour or bold geometric shape work just as well.
I offer the decorating of the hive as a session. I lead the students to create a design using the resources and time available.
Session 3 Hive game - School hall required. Define a hive with mats.
First a talk on pollination.
What it is and honeybees role in pollination.
Why is it important (food production), what can we do to help pollinators?
1. Hive game. Assign bee roles to students. Set them foraging. See how colony grows.
2. Evolution: Re-assign bee roles. Set them foraging, introduce “chemical markers”, Foragers to die off, examine effect on the hive.
Close with Q&A on why chemicals is an issue for pollinators and how we can help. (flower planting)
Follow up work – find and identify flowering plants (trees and flowers)
Make flower list of locally occurring flowers (agricultural, herbaceous, hedge & tree, weeds)
Session 4 Install the Bees. Date – the week after hive build. Weather dependant.
The Bee Farmer delivers the bees to site. The newly constructed and painted hive is ready to be placed in the apiary ready to receive bees. The Bee Farmer describes the series of event that are to take place. Bee suits are buddy checked for correct fit. Smoker lit, videographer assigned and hive record begun. The queen is found and secured. If the weather allows the bees are shook on to a cloth to allow them to walk into the hive. Brood frames are moved from the delivery hive to the new hive. If the weather is poor the bees will be transferred on the frames. Queen released. The children to do as much as they are able considering their strength and attitude around the bees.
Session 5 Well being hive summer visit. Date- before school breaks up for the summer.
The class visit hives.
Bee suits are buddy checked for correct fit, The smoker lit and videographer assigned
The students look in the hives and handle the frames of bees.
The student weigh the hive and record the findings.
During the summer break The Bee Farmer visits the hive[s] as part of his rounds. He ensures the bees are well and tends to their needs.
The harvesting of the honey crop is quite a quick operation and is usually carried out by the Bee Farmer out of school hours. A honey harvest session can be arranged as an additional session. We would included weighing the hive to see the effect the summer has had on the hive.
The honey is secured and saved for the extraction session.
Session 6 Label design and make - school led session?
Prior to bottling the group is set a series of tasks arising from a discussion on the size the crop and the perceived market. The legal requirements and size of the label will be given and it is for the group to decide upon the design of the label given the legal requirements and the jar size. The design of the label can be an individual effort or a competition for a school design. Often the crop yields more jars of honey than students in the class. Therefore the students may have to make more than one label.
The group work out a price per jar that a customer is willing to pay versus the cost of manufacture. The labels must be printed/drawn and ready in time for the bottling session. The labels are standard Avery labels.
The Bee Farmer provides the jars and lids at an extra cost. This saves the school buying bulk amounts of jars that are not used or buying small quantities of jars which is expensive
Session 7 Extraction
This exercise is carried out in the school kitchen or dining room as an afternoon session. The Bee Farmer delivers honey supers to school.
We talk about hygiene for food handling.
The Bee Farmer helps the students uncap the frames of honey and to use the hand cranked extractor to separate the honey from the comb. The honey runs out of the extractor, through a filter and into a bucket. We weigh the extracted honey to compare with previous figures.
All the specialist equipment is provided by the Bee Farmer
Session 8 Bottling – Date to be arranged but should be before Christmas fairs.
The Bee Farmers delivers bulk honey to school to facilitate students putting the honey in jars with regard to hygiene rules.
We talk about food hygiene.
The students are shown what is expected of them in regard to jarring and avoidance of waste.
The jars are labelled and packed into boxes.
The Bee Farmer will have sufficient of jars and lids to hand for the honey crop.
Options to customise the scheme Speak to the Bee Farmer to build your scheme
Options for locating bee hives
These option lend themselves to the Home schooling community, A school may also find that locating a beehive on the grounds will not work, perhaps the lack of a suitable space or an adverse reaction to the perceived risk a hive might pose. The scheme can be modified take take advantage of alternative.
The school or home schooling group could build the hive as part of the full scheme but have their hive hosted at one of four centres across Leicestershire.
A school could simply arrange a visit to one of the four centres across Leicestershire
In the first alternative the the students still have ownership of the honeybee colony whereas in the second the ownership is more passive.
Classroom session selection
A school or home schooling group can elect just to take individual sessions rather than getting involved the live honeybee aspect of the scheme. This is Woodville Schools Federation preferred option. Click HERE to see a the portfolio of sessions and talks. Remember if you have a particular topic linked to the bees or the environment feel free to ask me to design a session for your needs. Contact me at Info@thebeefarmer.co.uk
Summary of possible integration into the wide curriculum
Honeybees can form the foundation to link multiple disciplines within a school year, across curriculum subjects and years. The talk on the honeybees life cycle forms the starting point with its basis in biology and ecology (sciences) The hexagonal honeycomb, numbers of bees required to collect honey, flight journeys provide a basis activities around numeracy. Much has been written about honeybees (historical stories, folk lore, poems) providing an option to encompass literacy and art. Should the school take on or visit a bee hive there is scope for recording the event and presenting the story of the visit in an assembly or on the school social media venues. Should the school take on a bee hive and produce a harvest of honey there are additional activities to do with extraction of the honey, putting the harvest in jars, creating labels and selling, raffling or giving away the school's honey at the harvest festival or Christmas fair. The income from the honey could be used to defray part of the cost of the scheme.
My services are not limited to the topics above. If you wish to tailor a package that dovetails into your curriculum then contact me to discuss your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org
I can provide references from School for Bees participants