On a rainy Thursday afternoon, the backyard of École Jack Cook Elementary on Graham Avenue is literally buzzing with bees.
Along with the bees, there’s also the hushed whispering of half a dozen young apiarists in Grade One and Two. The soft whispering turns into delightful squeals when the queen bee makes herself visible to her small crowd of admirers.
Dressed in white bee suits– almost looking like astronauts – the students of the public francophone school have been tending to a beehive in their backyard for nearly eight weeks. Teaching them about the secret lives of bees is Christine MacDonald from Rushing River Apiaries. MacDonald and the school partnered on a community based project to provide students with hands-on and valuable lessons in science and the environment.
“When [the students] see the bees coming in with pollen on their legs, it confirms for them what they learn in science textbooks,” said school principal Isabelle Dancause.
The project started in the school’s backyard after they received a grant to enhance education through community partnerships with local artists or entrepreneurs.
“This was a challenge for us because we had to search for a partnership where they could speak French,” said Dancause. That is when MacDonald stepped up and proposed to teach a learning program about beekeeping in French. The school set up one beehive and the parents helped build a fence around it.
When the students first began some were scared of getting stung by bees. But once they started learning about the behaviour of the insects they got a hand of what to expect and how to behave around the hive, said Dancause.
Next year the school wants to add more hives as well as introducing children to collecting honey and making wax, said Dancause.