Monday, 13 March 2017

Creating a buzz: how UK schools are embracing beekeeping

Teachers are discovering that beehives can provide exciting opportunities to learn outside the classroom

Friday 3 March 2017 15.20 GMT Last modified on Friday 3 March 2017 16.32 GMT 

We know that things are bad with bees right now. In the past decade, they have been disappearing at an alarming rate – a combination of pests, pesticides and the destruction of habitats has seen the UK population decrease by about a third over that period. In September, the US added seven types of bees to its list of endangered species for the first time. The consequences of losing them would be huge: Albert Einstein once said that humans “would not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years”.

Help is taking all kinds of forms: from fundraising gigs to experimental robotic pollinators and Tesco donating waste sugar to keep Cornish hives going through the winter.

When it comes to schools, it would be understandable for the approach to be theoretical rather than practical (anyone who has ever shared a classroom with a bee and a set of panicking students will understand why). But there are schools across the country taking a practical approach and getting involved in beekeeping, rather than just reading about it.

Dr Julia Hoggard has kept bees for 30 years and runs a 20-acre, bee-orientated nature reserve in Cumbria. For the past year, she has been working with a local primary school, helping the students to create their own hives.

“I remember lots and lots of bees being in hay meadows when I was a child,” she says. “Whereas we will have summers now where we don’t see that many, even on the bee reserve. The change is painfully obvious. 

“The advantage of having them in schools is that they are neat little communities; you can look at every single aspect of what is going on and link it into the curriculum at all key stages.”

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