“BeeFriendly” Bee Guardians
A Native Bee Conservation Program for Brooksbank Elementary School Students
This outline is a description of an annual conservation and rehabilitation program which is being implemented at the elementary school grade level to teach students about the many types native bees, habitats and forage sources that exist within their local environments.
The study of bee anatomy, function and life-cycles and native bee identification.
The construction of low cost local bee nesting boxes( using recycled and native materials).
The planting of native plants seeds in border/easement or garden areas(collected from local sources).
The observation of native bee species and population levels in the local environment.
The maintenance and stewardship of successful nesting boxes for re-introduction to “beefriendly” conservation areas.
A conservation program of this type can provide the students with opportunities to develop a comprehensive understanding of the function and importance of the local /native bees and pollinator species to the balance and success of their local environments, a key understanding of the life-cycle of social and solitary bee types, the nesting and forage needs of our dwindling native bee populations and an understanding of the need for the proper stewardship of our environmental partners in the future as an alternative to the use of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers in the maintenance of our urban environments.
The “Bee Guardians – Native Bee Conservation Program” is an sustainable annual initiative providing each class of participating students with a complete view of the interactive life-cycle partnership between the native plant and native bee species within their local environment. The efforts of each student class can be passed on to the following grade class each year.
The program described is being developed as a “pilot” community project with the intention of establishing a continuing partnership between the newly developed N. Van. City and N. Van. District community urban garden sites and the elementary schools of District #44 for the preservation and conservation of native bees and their habitats throughout the North Shore area. Interest and support for a program of this type has been demonstrated by many community members including the Edible Garden Project staff at the Loutet Community Farm site, who have confirmed their interest in participating in the program by providing sites for the placement of native bee nesting boxes and developing a partnership with the students and teachers of Brooksbank Elementary School during the planting and harvesting of food crops within their farming area. Logistical and technical support, resource materials and staff training can be provided by the local beekeepers of the North Shore Bee Club and an online data base will be made available to educators through the “BeeFriendly.ca” website to provide support during the course of the program.
The “Bee Guardians” Program consists of up to six separate teaching modules performed during specific seasons or time periods throughout the school year.
Module One – Program start up and studies, a series of classroom and outdoor activities designed to introduce the students to the native bee and partner plant species in their local environment. The primary activities in this module would be the construction and planting of seed pod bombs using native plant species and the study of basic bee anatomy, function, and various life-cycles and to teach the students how to identify different types of native bees. This module would be performed during in the winter months (Nov/Dec/Jan) while both native bees and their partner plants are dormant within the garden environments.
Module Two – Program development, the construction and installation of artificial nesting boxes for the native bee types identified in module one. This module would be performed in early spring (Feb./ Mar.) in preparation for the emergence of the native bees from their overwintering states.
Module Three – Program observations and surveys, primarily outdoor activities consisting of the repeated observations of the growth of the native plant types sown and surveying the emergence of native bee types and population levels as they begin their annual foraging and nesting life-cycle. This module to be performed in the spring (Mar./ Apr.) during the emergence cycle of the native bees.
Module Four – Program partnership, classroom and outdoor activities consisting of identifying the plant types used in agriculture which are dependent upon native bee pollination activity to produce fruit and vegetable crops in our gardens and participating in the planting and sowing of food production crop plants with the farmers and gardeners of the local urban farm or garden. This module to be conducted in the early/mid spring(Apr./ May) during the planting season for food crops.
Module Five – Program surveys and review, observations of the successful pollination activity resulting in food production and survey of the established native bee nest box populations introduced by the students during the preceding modules. This activity to be performed in late spring/early summer (June) during the fruit development of sown crop plants and prime nesting season of the native bee species present in the local garden areas.
Module Six – Program completion and evaluation, outdoor and classroom activities of the collection and storage of native plant materials,(Sept.), and the maintenance of successful native bee nesting boxes and the bees that used them.(Oct.). and a final evaluation and recording of the results of the student’s Bee Guardians program.
The “Bee Guardians” Program has yet to become an established “pilot” community partnership initiative in the North Shore area and it will need to be developed in a great many ways and details over the coming year before it can achieve a level of success necessary to become a viable curriculum for use within the other elementary schools of school district #44. We hope, with the participation and support of the staff and students of Brooksbank Elementary school, the Edible Garden Project staff at the Loutet Urban Farm, members of the North Shore Bee Club and other interested community participants, that together we will be able to create a successful educational program to help preserve our local native bee populations and their habitat for the future.