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Explain the benefits of bees with sweet success

Getting a taste of farming: that’s the aim of a visit to a farm or a talk by a farmer. It is possible – literally – when illustrating the life, work and benefits of bees on farms.

After a welcome from host farmer Ian Pigott at the Farm School, Hertfordshire, the visiting class of school children is divided up.

children enjoy learning benefits of bees

Learning about bees is the bees knees with David Green.

One group heads for the barn, soon to board the trailer towed by a tractor to a wheat field. One group heads for the farm school kitchen, boisterous at the thought of making something. The third group heads off, for what appears to be the least exciting experience, following their leader beekeeper, David Green.

He simply starts with “I’ve got something amazing to share with you. Follow me.” The children are in for a fascinating time.

See the story

The focus for this farming story is the life and work of the honey bee. Quickly the children are tuned in to using their senses. Starting with what they see, they are asked to spot the incoming and outgoing insects and their flight paths to and from the hive in the hedgerow. Amazing facts about flight speed, distance, numbers in the hive, also come thick and fast but only after the children have been invited first to, count, estimate and imagine.

Hear the business of bees

Children listen to the sound a hive of bees make to hear the benefits of bees

Children fall silent to listen to the sound of the hive at work.

After a few minutes it’s time to move on to the next stop on the Bee Walk. Containing the class excitement and behaviour is a challenge. But by drawing them in close, within an open-fronted shelter, around a hive with a glass front, helps to focus their attention. Hush is requested so the sound of the colony can be heard and enjoyed before the front panel is removed to reveal the business of bees.

Touch the tiny body

Incorporating the sense of touch is a must. The bodies of deceased worker bees are ready to be passed around with suggestions of what to feel and notice. The formidable work performance of the insect in their short life is made all the more impressive when their small size and tiny weight is felt.

A host of honey facts are on hand to amaze and explain benefits of bees

A host of honey facts are on hand to amaze and explain benefits of bees.

Other things to catch interest are dotted around. Honey and hive facts are pinned to the walls, props such as pieces of comb are laid out on tables, and a bug hotel has been built nearby to give a focus to discussing other insects found on farms.

Taste the sweet result

children tasting honey

The sweet taste of honey makes a grand finale to the session.

The benefits of bees to farmers and their crops is stressed through the walk. Last of all, the grand finale is a taste of the results of the farm’s bee labour. A single jar of honey is held up and the class is asked to line up.

One by one, using a wooden lolly stick, they gently take a scoop of honey from the jar to taste. Some taste tentatively, some without restraint, but they are all delighted and excited by the sweet sensation.

The benefits of bees

What are the benefits of bees? The children’s answers come thick and fast: “Bees are amazing”; “Bees work very hard and pollinate crops”; “Farmers need bees on the farm and look after them”; “Honey is delicious”. That’s certainly a sweet result.

Learn farm science through lunch

Research into an arable crop may not sound that interesting for a group of children. But add a little of the sweet end-product to raw chocolate and suddenly you’ve the attention of a class of young children – and their teachers – and the makings of a great way to learn farm science through lunch.

Ches Broom shares how British Beet Research Organisation joins in some  lunchbox learning to show Farming is Magic.

Linking farming science to lunch

Ches Broom, BBRO (second right) and team ready to show Farming is Magic

Ches Broom, BBRO (second right) and team ready to show Farming is Magic

BBRO (British Beet Research Organistaion) staff had great fun taking part in the Lunchbox Science programme with a team from SAW (Science, Art and Writing) and FACE (Farming Agriculture and Countryside Education). We were tasked with linking the science at the BBRO with something in the lunchbox of children at St Michaels Junior School in Bowthorpe, Norwich.

Making a learning journey

Learning through hands on science about food and farming

Learning through hands on science about food and farming

We took the youngsters on a journey from seed to sugar. We showed them the Farming is Magic sugar beet film so they could see what the crop looks like in full leaf in the field. They could also hear straight from sugar beet specialist, Dr Mark Stevens, about the challenges farmers face while growing this sweet treat.

Classroom activity

We know that children learn best through experience so we were all ready with a whole range of activities. The children searched beet leaves for aphids and predators, having a close up view through microscopes.  They then filled test tubes with solution to grow their own sugar crystals before having a taste test of three different chocolates to decide which had the most sugar, unsurprisingly the sweetest chocolate was also the most popular.

school children using art and poems to explain science

Farming is Magic: school children creatively use art and poetry to share what they’ve learned.

Learn science of farming through creativity

The SAW team then helped the youngsters to write poems and draw pictures

based around the mornings activities.  Maybe it was the chocolate that got the creative juices going but, whatever it was, the youngsters had certainly taken it all in. From giant aphids to jaw-crunching ladybirds the young people had certainly enjoyed getting to grips with science.