Jul 18th, 2011
Inspiring A Generation...ish
One of the joys of being married to a teacher is that I get to know other teachers, who, by the very nature of their occupation are always looking for opportunities to share knowledge.

A couple of months ago my wife's friend asked me if I would attend a careers day that was being held at her school on Canvey (Northwick Park) and talk to the kids about being a beekeeper.

I vaguely recollect being told that between the teachers, there was a competition to see who had a friend with the most obscure job ... so maybe being a bit "odd" is a positive thing!!!

As part of the careers day, I was also asked if I could talk to the nursery children about bees and their importance.

OK - so this sounded simple enough but as the day drew nearer I got more and more nervous.

The thing is, I can bore for England when talking about my favourite lil' bugs but to try and make it interesting and engaging for the "playstation generation" is something entirely different.

Fortunately, my wife is used to teaching kids and so she came up with the idea of getting the kids to act out pollination with the aid of a bee cuddly toy, some plastic flowers and cotton wool balls. I also borrowed my niece's Winnie The Pooh as he likes "hunny" :-)

I also placed a call to the beekeepers club to see if we had a virtual hive available (it's a real beehive, but rather than having bees on the frames, it has full size photographs instead) ... fortunately there was one so now I was armed with cute fluffy stuff, plus something a little more formal.

I also had the idea (all by myself this time!!!), to try and get hold of some free packets of flower seeds so that the children could then take them home and plant a bee friendly garden with their parents over the summer holidays.

With the aid of Google and a few phone calls, I managed to get hold of the appropriate people at both Fothergills and Sutton Seeeds.

Both companies were extremely generous with their freebees (pun intended!) and I had over 150 packets of seeds to give out.

So, equipped with all my stuff and a spare bee suit for the kids to dress up in, off I trotted - calm on the exterior, absolutely bricking it on the inside though!!!

First off were the tough crowd - the nursery school children. As I sat in front of them in my bee suit, one little girl was decidedly wary, but everyone else seemed to take it in their stride.

I started off by asking the children who Winnie the Pooh was, his favourite food and where it came from. I was pleasantly surprised that quite a few children knew already that bees made honey and given that these kids were under 5 years old, I was even more impressed.

The presentation took around 15 minutes or so and I hope the children found it interesting - I know the teachers did :-)

After the presentation, it was time to get ready for the careers day so I set up the virtual hive, plus a real one (minus the bees, although thanks to Sarah from the bee club I do know where I can lay my hands on an observation hive in the future), opened a few jars of honey and lit the smoker.

Many of the children were accompanied by their parents and other teachers and while I had stiff competition from a dog training lady, I did spend most of the afternoon chatting away, helping kids dress up in the bee suit, encouraging them to taste some honey and then asking them to help the bees by planting flowers in their gardens.

While many of the children themselves were interested (if I'd have had Sarah's observation hive then I think I could have engaged them for longer), it was the adults who were definitely more fascinated - to the point where the school have asked whether I would keep and look after a beehive at the school (once they've checked out the appropriate health & safety regulations).

I am rather excited about the prospect of doing this. Bees are so vital to our existence and while I don't possess the skill set to communicate effectively about bees to younger people, I am confident that the professionals (i.e. the teachers) can take my enthusiastic ramblings and put them into an engaging and exciting format for the children.