Bees In Schools

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar, is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar - Bradley Miller


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.

Ysgol San 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!). 

Bees and beekeeping in school

The children are very much involved in beekeeping too.The children are very much involved in beekeeping too.


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 produced by the bees at Ysgol San Sior is very fine.The honey produced by the bees at Ysgol San Sior is very fine.


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.

The 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.

Hands on education about pollination and growing food

The children are being taught the connection between the bees, the flowers, pollination and honey.The children are being taught the connection between the bees, the flowers, pollination and honey.


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.


Expanding the learning experience


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.  

The children help with the chickens.The children help with the chickens.


Working with animals

The children take photographs of the animals and creatures in the menagerie, and these are made into greeting cards.The children take photographs of the animals and creatures in the menagerie, and these are made into greeting cards.



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.


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The children also start the day with an animal linked to the book
Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane.


Celyn, the 'reading dog'


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! 

Celyn is a very good listener.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!

After a hard day's work it's time for a snooze.After a hard day's work it's time for a snooze.


How do these activities help with traditional and broader parts of the school learning curriculum?

Honey bee on Japanese anemone.Honey bee on Japanese anemone.

Aside from 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:

  • calculating the profit from chutney and honey sales;
  • counting and comparing egg production one year with egg production from another year;
  • business skills through creating products to sell and serving customers on stalls; 
  • animal husbandry (and empathy!); 
  • creative cooking skills.

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’.


Recognition

The school has attracted very positive attention, including:

  • a visit from HRH, Prince Charles who visited the school;
  • being featured twice in the BBC television programme, Countryfile;
  • a number of enterprise and 'green' awards.

HRH, Prince Charles talking with the children.HRH, Prince Charles talking with the children.


Verdict

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 page

Some bee-related words in Welsh

Honey bee foraging on sneezeweed.Honey bee foraging on sneezeweed.


Wales has its own indigenous language, so for fun, here are some bee-related Welsh words:

Bee = gwenynen (bees = gwenyn)

Bumblebee = 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

 

Related links:

School website: https://www.sansior.wales/  and letter from the headmaster - well worth reading:

https://www.sansior.wales/letter-from-the-head

More:

Conwy Beekeepers  -  http://www.conwybeekeepers.org.uk/

National Beekeeping Centre  -  www.beeswales.co.uk

Welsh Beekeepers Association  -  www.wbka.com






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