One third of our food supply depends on pollination. While bats, butterflies, hummingbirds, and wind are all common pollinators, bees are responsible for doing most of this critical work. In 2006, news regarding colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that leads to the decline of bee populations, began to spread. Millions of dollars have been spent to determine the cause of the disorder, and beekeepers and beekeeping programs alike have multiplied to raise awareness about these significant pollinators and to encourage others to consider beekeeping. It is important that we teach students of any age about the importance of pollinators through activities such as beekeeping and planting native flower gardens.
There has been a rise in popularity for beekeeping, including beekeeping in school gardens. In part the increase has been a response to colony collapse disorder, yet also an interest in learning more about the intelligent behaviors of this insect. Beekeeping can be integrated into the school curriculum in a variety of subjects. The obvious link is biology, but also students may study the origin of honeybees in a history or geography class, or perhaps a lesson on sugars with a look into how honey is made and comparing flavors of different local honeys. Math is another neat link, studying the geometrical shapes of honeycomb. Not only can beekeeping provide learning opportunities, then, but it can also teach students about stewardship, respect, and responsibility. The website www.pollinators.org provides a variety of pollinator curricula, games, and tips for implementing projects
Of course bees can be dangerous. Bee stings are uncomfortable and very serious to anyone who is allergic. As with most things on school grounds, take precautions to minimize possible risks; we suggest consulting an experienced beekeeper prior to planning to keep bees in schools, place the hive so that it is not accessible to children without supervision (many schools put them on a roof or behind a fence in a side yard), and always have a beekeeper present at the hive when students are watching it.