Thursday, 22 September 2011

Teaching Beekeeping to Children Improves Behavior

Written by Sami Grover, a Treehugger blogger
When I wrote about beekeeping with children for Parentables, I noted that bees can be a fantastic tool for encouraging emotional literacy. For the same reason that beekeeping is great for those with felony convictions, it can also help children to better understand and control their anger and improve their behavior. As any beekeeper will tell you, opening a hive when you are in a bad mood is a very silly idea. One UK school is finding this out in very practical terms, having gone from trying to remove an uninvited swarm, to adopting a school hive of its own. While revenue from honey sales is a welcome boost, it’s the improvement in unruly kids’ behavior that has been most striking.
Frederika Whitehead reports for the Guardian on Charlton Manor Primary School in Greenwich’s beekeeping program. Having watched how calm, and fascinated, pupils were when a swarm of bees was found on school grounds, headteacher Tim Baker took it as inspiration to enroll himself and two staff members on a beekeeping class, and to then start teaching the art to his pupils. The result has been astounding. From learning business skills through selling honey, to studying bees behavior, there are obvious educational and financial benefits. But the behavioral improvements are what is most striking:

One pupil was a regular visitor to the school’s behavioural support house because of his violent outbursts of kicking, punching and throwing furniture around. While he struggled with academic work, he discovered that he excelled at the the practical side of beekeeping: making the wooden frames that go into the hive, and dismantling the hive to access the honey. When the Guardian’s bees expert, Alison Benjamin, visited the school, the pupil told her: “The bees made me peaceful and calm.”
As a species, we’ve co-evolved with bees for thousands of years. So its little wonder that reconnecting with some of our closest non-human partners does both parties a whole lot of good. As a failed beekeeper with a young toddler, it will be a while yet before I introduce my own brood to the world of bees. But I do have a friend who regularly visits his hives with his young son and daughter—they’re pretty well behaved kids already, but experiencing bees close up is an awesome educational opportunity. I only wish more kids had the chance.

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