It’s not just about the honey

Classroom Hives Have you ever watched a Super Organism in action? Classroom Hives provides students of all grades with the opportunity to study a real Beehive. Because of our work as volunteers for twelve years in the Mission Hill School and now three years in the Fenway High School , we have established a remarkable safety record.  In all that time only one student has ever been stung with no serious consequence. Safety is of prime importance because without it, no learning can take place, so we consider the work we have done in this area as our most important accomplishment and asset. We are able to offer an extraordinary exhibit. We have also made it possible for the hives to last for two to three years on average, so there is continuity for the students. The fact that they can be placed either in the classroom itself or close by in the building makes it something familiar and accessible. A colony of bees is the only animal exhibit that we know of that shows the subject in its real environment and shows it reacting in real time. It is rich in information and can be used by all of the different grades. Many of the activities that are visible can rarely be seen in a regular hive. For example, the queen laying, the nurse bees feeding the larva, new bees emerging from their cells, the foragers dancing to indicate the location of water, pollen or nectar, and bees systematically venting the hive to cool it off in warm weather. The hive teaches the student not to think just in terms of individual insects, but of a Super Organism that is composed of thousands. Once they recognize this, they gain an understanding of the commonality of issues among all social animals (including ourselves), and a vast subject opens up for discussion.

About the project: The Classroom Hives project has three main goals, to 1) show how to set up an observation hive in a classroom, 2) explain the safety procedures directly involving the observation hive and also indirectly involving school protocol, and 3) educate about the benefits of having an observation hive in a classroom. Observation hives are plexiglass or glass -enclosed structures containing a live honey bee colony. They provide a unique opportunity for students of all ages and all locations across the globe to view the intricate world of these fascinating creatures right inside their classroom. Honey bees are animals of vital importance for their role as pollinators of over 130 fruit and vegetable crops around the world. They are the only live-animal classroom exhibit that shows an organism in its true environment. The classroom setting is a familiar place to children all over the world.

Jeff Murray is the Master Beekeeper, Carpenter and Honey Bee Researcher for Classroom Hives, which is in the process of incorporating as a 501(c)3 non profit.