Wellington first-graders supplement lessons on bees with school's Apiary Club

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Blais Blackburn, a Clintonville resident and junior at Wellington, shows honeybees and their hive April 7 to first-graders (front to back) Elle Green of Bexley, Lauren Roginson of Upper Arlington and Udhay Dhillon of Upper Arlington. Members of the school's Apiary Club put on the demonstration to supplement classroom lessons the first-graders are learning about bees and their roles in the ecosystem.

Members of the Wellington School's Apiary Club earlier this month helped supplement first-graders' lessons about the importance of honeybees in the ecosystem. 

On April 7, members of the Apiary Club, consisting of Upper School students, gathered with all 36 of the school's first-graders and let them get an up-close look at honeybees the club has been raising this year. 

During the exercise, club members passed around frames containing honeycomb so the younger students could see what honeybees' "homes" look like and showed off protective equipment and other tools used for beekeeping. 

Additionally, the first-graders got to examine observation hives so they could learn more about the various stages of a honeybee's lifecycle. 

It was an example of collaborative learning between students and a way in which Wellington seeks to engage younger students in classroom lessons through curriculum-based interactions with their older peers. 

Wellington first-grade teacher Tara Reed said the program came together after first-graders began learning about persuasive writing and championing gardening. 

Through that, she said, students began to learn about the role bees play as pollinators. 

"We decided that students needed some knowledge of bees before persuading others to help bees," Reed said. "First-graders learned about bee anatomy, life cycle, kinds of bees, their role in food webs and pollination. 

"All of this was to help students understand the importance of bees to our food supply. It’s also a wonderful lesson for our younger learners to see how our school encourages and supports them as they explore areas of deep personal interest."

Reed said in addition to learning from the Apiary Club, the first-graders have learned about native plants that attract pollinators, such as bees. As a result, they teamed with Joya Elmore, Wellington's director of Gardens for Environment-Based Learned, to plant flowers and vegetables in the school's garden. 

During the demonstration by the Apiary Club, Blais Blackburn, a 16-year-old junior at the Upper School and a student leader for the club, showed first-graders the observation hive, discussed bees' lifecycles and allowed them to examine pieces of honeycomb and beeswax. 

"I had no expectations," Blackburn said. "I didn’t know what would happen so I was pleasantly surprised to hear their immediate parade of questions.

"Hearing their instantaneous excitement and enthusiasm was so fulfilling and I was, and am, filled with gratitude for the incredible opportunity."

In addition to allowing the first-graders to observe bees and their hives, Blackburn said it was fun to share her interests in entomology, botany and environmental sciences. 

"One of my favorite parts was hearing their thought processes," she said. "First-graders tend to sort of think out loud and getting to hear that taught me a lot.

"They were comparing queen cells to peanut shells, comparing drone cells to peanuts and using those comparisons to ask more questions. Some of the kids asked me if I enjoyed beekeeping and getting to answer that question with follow-ups about how they could start beekeeping was so rewarding."

Following the demonstration, first-graders were asked for takeaways from the experience. 

Cale Ivery, 7, of Blacklick said his favorite part was getting to see the beekeeping suits club members wore and said he learned about the innerworkings of the hive. 

"I learned that there is just one queen bee in a hive, and that worker bees can only last for four weeks," Ivery said. 

Another first-grader, Lauren Roginson, 7, of Upper Arlington remarked how sweet and "very tart" the honey was that the students sampled from the hives. 

She also was impressed by the bees' workmanship.

"It kind of looked scary at first, but when I got close to it, it had these little hexagon shapes, and I saw the bees up close," Roginson said. "It was very cool."

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