Monday, July 13, 2009

The Sweetest Harvest: Youth Outreach

This post is from the road: I am looking for bees in Britain and France again! But there is another reason why the blog suffers in the summertime: it is my best chance to work with children in and about the apiary.
I'm a bit over halfway through my presentations, which usually involve bringing an observation hive, an empty hive setup, a skep, some tools and veils, and a honey tasting opportunity. I used to prepare the flow of the presentations a bit more precisely, but usually the kids are more than ready to challenge, ask questions, and generally become friends of the bees with very little help from me.
I work with two dramatically different populations, for the most part, though they all end up being curious kids at heart. My downtown kids usually put me through a bit of an "Are you serious?" drill, where they basically need me to prove two things: that I know what I am talking about, and (more importantly) that this is coming from a place of real caring and passion. They are sick of hearing prescriptions about what they should be doing with their lives, I think, and are primarily interested in whether I am really going to share.
The suburban kids are also skeptical in their own way. They usually have some exposure to the subject matter, and also want to know whether I am wasting their time, in this case with stuff they know already. I am more likely to deal with kids who are actually afraid of nature in the 'burbs: it is an oversimplification, but that folks who have worked so hard to move their kids to the edge of the best have often transmitted a sense of general worry about everything that flies, buzzes, or grows.
But the bees make pretty short work of that. Bring a populated observation hive into a group of kids and you will soon have preteens glued around the box -- and they are usually better at spotting drones than we are.
In our region, summer is the only time I can really do this outreach: by the time schools get rolling in the autumn, the bees are beginning their winter shutdown and are both vulnerable and less cooperative. In the spring, the insects-that-pollinate unit in the curriculum may take place before the weather is safely warm enough to move queens and brood.
But this is an appeal to beekeepers new and established: even after a simple short course, you already know enough to fill an hour-long presentation. And every kid you send home as a friend of bees might be more willing to get his parents to allow bees in a neighbor's back yard, or (later) even their own!


Two Big said...

another excellent - and timely - post.

just yesterday a friend stopped by with his 13 year old son to show him our hives... the kid was fascinated with the bees, asking questions and listening for specific details.

thx for the post. safe journeys.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

I did my first presentation a couple months ago and it was a blast. I love showing people something new about bees they didn't know about.

Kate said...

I work at a DC charter school and my first graders are doing a big study of insects this spring. We would love to have you come speak or do a presentation. Is this something you do? How could we contact you about it?

Phang said...

Shoot me an email at phang at yahoo dot com and I am sure we can work something out. If its not me, we can certainly find another DC beekeeper!

Just so you know, we really can't bring actual (closed-in) bees to a classroom until daytime temps are into the high 50s. For a young population like yours, it often helps focus and hold attention if we can bring bees. Plus it is cool :-)

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I ... LOVE ... THIS