I firmly believe that if you inspire children today to love animals and the wonders of nature, then when they grow up, they’ll be better citizens, and they’ll seek to preserve the natural world for future generations.
Schools have a fantastic role to play, so I was delighted to learn of a school in the UK, with a wonderful ethos and inspiring initiatives.
Sior (St.George’s School) is a primary school in Llandudno in North Wales. The headmaster (Mr Ian Jones) decided to use
bees and animals as a means of improving standards in numeracy, literacy and life skills. (A link to an introductory letter written by the headmaster is listed at the end of this article - it's well worth a read!).
This innovative school has ten beehives.
The staff underwent beekeeping training, but it’s not just the staff who care for the bees. The children are very much involved in beekeeping too, with the school having purchased a number of beekeeper suits for children so that the pupils can help out with the bees and view the honey bees at close quarters.
To enhance this experience
further, they have even installed a webcam in one of the hives in order to
monitor the daily activities of all the bees.
The school now sells honey, and it's highly regarded too, with children's TV presenter, Matt Baker saying:
"This is amongst the finest honey I have ever tasted".
The honey is sold at local events, such as the yearly honey fair at the lovely nearby town of Conwy. The children help with the stall, which of course, helps to expand the children’s learning experience further.
beekeeping project has proven so successful that the local beekeeping
organisation that has assisted the school (Conwy Beekeepers –
Gwenynwyr Conwy) is aiming to establish a few more beekeepers in other
selected schools in the Conwy district.
This direct involvement with bees no doubt helps children understand the link between the flowers around them, and food that ends up on their plates.
The creation of a bee-friendly garden including nectar-rich plants and an apple orchard within the school premises, makes it easy for children to observe pollination first hand.
If all this is not enough, the school grows plants to raise extra money for school funds, and sells eggs from the chickens to local shops and a local restaurant. The school has 150 hens, which produce about 20,000 eggs each year. With the fruit and vegetables they grow, the children also make and sell chutney.
In addition to the bees, a farm and chickens, the school has a menagerie. Animals they keep include: tortoises; tenrecs; reptiles and invertebrates such as moths, snails and beetles.
As well as learning to care for these animals and creatures, the children take photographs and use the images to create greeting cards which are sold from the school and local festivals or fairs.
The children also start the day with an animal linked to the book Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane.
Being a dog
lover, I find it especially heart-warming that the children have a ‘reading dog’ – a
labradoodle called Celyn. The children practice by reading to Celyn, and apparently, Celyn is a very good listener!
It seems Celyn enjoys the experience of being read to as much as the children enjoy the experience of reading to him.
As a result of this initiative, the reading proficiency and confidence of the pupils has improved because Celyn listens non-judgementally and without interruption, which is particularly beneficial for shy pupils.
I can imagine
it also makes reading much more enjoyable - I'm sure there would have been a stampede to read to Celyn if he had been at my school when I was a child!
the obvious (learning the value of pollinators and the link between pollinators, biodiversity and food), these fabulous initiatives create a myriad innovative learning
experiences. Just a few examples:
I wasn’t surprised to learn that the children are very passionate about the whole project and, according to a 2017 report by Estyn (the Welsh Government school inspection organisation) the children discuss the project ‘with great confidence and maturity’.
The school has attracted very positive attention, including:
I’m incredibly impressed with this school, which is why I am so keen to share information about it. It sets an outstanding example to other schools that I hope will be repeated elsewhere, not only across the UK but internationally.
It is also a wonderful example of how a local group of beekeepers can get involved with a school and help to introduce them to the wonderful world of bees.
I would be very interested to learn of comparable initiatives via my 'contact me page'.
Wales has its own indigenous language, so for fun, here are some bee-related Welsh words:
Bee = gwenynen (bees = gwenyn)
Bumble bee = cacynen
Honey bee = gwenynen
Beehive = cwch gwenyn
Beekeeper = gwenynwr (beekeepers = gwenynwyr)
Apiary = gwenynfa
Flower = blodyn
Nectar = neithdar
Pollen = paill
Pollination = peilliad
Pollinate = peillio
Beeswax = cwyr gwenyn
Honeycomb = crwybr gwenyn, diliau
A swarm = haid
To swarm = heidio
School website: https://www.sansior.wales/ and letter from the headmaster - well worth reading:
Conwy Beekeepers - http://www.conwybeekeepers.org.uk/
National Beekeeping Centre - www.beeswales.co.uk
Welsh Beekeepers Association - www.wbka.com