The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm has played host to FarmWonders, offering innovative, educational and fun programs for children ages 6 to 12 years. FarmWonders is a community education initiative committed to promoting environmental awareness through science-based farm learning. It aims to offer a unique experience that allows children to explore the wonders of science at the farm and discover the life-cycles of the food that they eat.
Jamie Lee Martin is an Apicultural Specialist Intern for the Bee IPM project. During her internship with Bee IPM, Jamie is exploring the interest of queen breeders and queen producers in BC to engage in efforts to increase the quantity and quality of locally produced queens in BC, and to utilize Bee IPM tools for selective breeding. You can read more about Jamie’s internship here. On August 7th, Jamie led a workshop on the importance of honey bees to a group of FarmWonders participants. The young participants were mesmerized by Jamie’s interactive presentation and by the curious honey bees that decided to take a break from their laborious work in the hive to eavesdrop the presentation. We think that we might have more than one future beekeeper in the group!
We asked Jamie to share her outreach experience with us:
Each group of about 10 children (bundled in tiny beekeeper suits) formed the tightest circle possible around the clear observation hive I had set up for them, and the questions began to pour in.
I asked questions too, such as, “What do you know about honey bees?” The overwhelming response from each group was, “They STING!” This is true, bees can sting, but what surprised me was that relative to all the other services honey bees provide (pollination of our crops, honey, and wax), the fact that they occasionally sting is what stands out most to children, and is what they tend to associate bees with.
This is why I think it’s so great that the Farm Wonders summer camp offers children an opportunity to learn more about the essential services honey bees provide, why they are so interesting, how they function as a community, and a little bit about their biology.
My goal for the presentation was to give an overview of the lifecycle, behaviours, and benefits of these highly social (eusocial) insects. What I didn’t realize going into the day was how much fun it was going to be, not only for the kids but for me too! There’s something so special about sitting around an active hive with a group of smart, funny and oh-so-curious kids. It reminded me of why I became interested in bees in the first place, to learn more about them, to understand their role in the environment, and perhaps most importantly, to have fun while doing it.
My internship this summer has offered me such a diversity of experiences. I have helped with bee research in the field, and lab; I have met with beekeepers from all over BC; I have been beekeeping with perhaps the best beekeepers in the province; and somehow, on top of it all, I even had a day of talking about bees with a group of hilarious and intelligent children who managed to help me put everything back into perspective. Needless to say, this summer has been the adventure of a lifetime, an exceptional learning experience, and much too short!