This Autumn I worked with a Primary school in the South Dublin suburbs and they requested that we start a project on bees initially for submission to the Young Scientist competition. They wanted to: To learn more about Bees, their habitat, and their impact on our lives – working with two sixth class groups of 16 and 18 at different times. It was a fascinating project for all concerned. We primarily focused on the Irish Honey Bee, although they were aware of the other 100 bee species native to Ireland. We focused on the casts within the Hive, the morphology, behavior, and dynamics within the bee colony throughout the year. The children made hand-made models of bees out of art materials.
We also completed a ‘Trees for Bees Habitat Map’. This will tie in very nicely with their Biodiversity Flag as they must do a habitat map for this flag. There were 83 mature trees on the grounds hundreds of years old. So we used an existing arborist report and mapped the 83 trees onto a large a1 site map of the school. The students went out with ipads and took morphological pictures of the trees inc. leaf & bark rubbings. Then we isolated the trees known be beneficial to the bees and recorded them on the map specifically – out of the selection these were noted as ‘Horse Chestnut, Lime & Sycamore trees’. There were significant hedgerows with a large Ivy/hawthorn/bramble/ populations but this would be recorded on a separate piece of work.
The children learned how the bees communicate through the ‘waggle dance’, and the ‘tremble dance’. They learned about pollination and the flower morphology. They were fascinated to learn about the Queen, we even dedicated a ‘Queen Bee workshop’!!. The breakdown of functions within the hive depending on the age of the bees and the time of year, and what the bees do with the pollen and nectar they collect. Every week, I went away with questions such as ‘How long does it take for the bees to produce a wild hive, how long does it take for the hive to get to 50-60k bees?, how many stings would it take to kill a human?, why are African bees so aggressive?, what’s in the queen bee sting? – is it different, who makes the queen cells?, is inbreeding an issue in the colony?, explain the evolution of insects?, how many queen cells are there?, what are the differences between a Bumblebee and wasp colony?……It was a real pleasure to work on this project with 6th class children.