How to Get Kids Excited About Bees
Mandy Shaw is a Portland-based beekeeper and Swarm Director of the Portland Urban Beekeepers Association. She is also host of the podcast Beekeeper Confidential podcast and founder of Bella Beek handcrafted beekeeping tools. As a bee advocate, rescuer and parent, Mandy often visits local schools to teach kids all about the importance of bees, how to appreciate pollinators, and protect them from harm for a more sustainable world. Here is guidance from Mandy’s toolkit for teaching kids about bees - teachers, please feel free to use these materials with your students!
In a world of readily available technology to keep our minds occupied, it is more important than ever to remind kids about the importance of getting out into the world and discovering one of the superheroes of environmental engineering: Bees!
Photo by Mandy Shaw
More often than not when I first ask kids what they know about bees, their answers include stories of themselves or someone they care about being stung. My goal is to give them a new perspective about bees, and more importantly share some simple ways that they can help their local pollinator populations.
Because time in the classroom can be limited, here are my best tips for getting the most out of your session. It can be very helpful to have the students vote on their most important questions before your visit. It’s also beneficial to know your students, what they are learning about that week and if pollinators fit with that subject. I try to cater my visit to the needs of the classroom. For example, if they are learning about biology I may bring visuals showing the life cycle of social honey bees compared with the life cycles of solitary bees.
Working with bees is a full sensory experience, there are sights, sounds, and smells to take in. I like to bring materials that entice the senses. If you aren’t a beekeeper and don’t have these materials in your own supply, try contacting your local beekeeping association. Many associations keep educational materials on hand to share with their community and may even have a volunteer available to help.
Photo by Mandy Shaw
My standard teaching kit includes:
- Honey sticks for kids to enjoy
- Beeswax in both the comb and rendered form (separated from the comb!)
- Honeycomb and strained honey
- A bee suit
- A smoker and hive tool- kids LOVE squeezing the smoker bellows!
- An observation hive with real bees- if the school or organization allows it
- Pollinator friendly flower seeds to share
- If a projector screen and computer are available, you may want to bring a short presentation like the one I created below geared towards k-5th grade students: Getting to know bees - and how you can help! (PDF)
Visiting classrooms to talk about bees with kids is an important part of my job as a beekeeper! Getting out into the community to share your bee knowledge is not only fun, it can create a lasting impression on the kids that you meet with. If you want to teach about bees but aren’t sure how to get started, try contacting your local library or school system and offer your volunteer services. Each year, I have had schools call me to come back and teach again. It brings me so much joy to share my passion for bees with younger generations who will someday take the torch and carry on the important work of preserving our bee populations.
For more educational information from Mandy, follow her on instagram @beeingmandy