Making an impact with conservation in the classroom

Each June, the entire, global team of Discovery employees simultaneously takes part in a day of giving back to the community, known as Impact Day.

Every year a variety of different projects are available for Discovery employees to choose from, and this year, I chose to participate in a day of making bee hotels (also called bee houses) with local school, Granton Primary School.

Bee houses - team photo

Impact Day team with students from Granton Primary School.

I didn’t really know much about bee hotels, or how to make them, before taking in Impact Day, so it was surprising to me to learn just how simple it is — and how much they help the environment.

The type of bee we were making the bee hotels for — solitary bees — do not live in a hive. Instead, they nest in sandy banks, hollow stems and wood. Bee hotels replicate hollow stems and provide a safe environment for the bees to nest, where they won’t be accidentally disturbed by humans or exposed to predators.

Bee houses - cutting bottles

Step 1: removing the top part of the bottles.

We cut the tops off of 1 litre plastic bottles, securely taping thick tape over the sharp edges (to prevent any of the schoolchildren from accidentally cutting themselves), and then began the process of rolling sheets of paper around a pencil, to keep the hollow tubes as thin as possible.

Bee houses - group working

Bee hotels are quite simple to make.

Once the tube was rolled, the end of the paper was stuck down with sellotape, to keep it from unravelling, and then cut down so that when each tube was stood up inside the bottle, they would be shorter than the bottle’s top edge. Apparently this means the bees will lay their eggs deep inside the protection of the plastic casing of the bee house, rather than in an exposed end of a tube of paper, which a bird can still easily access with its beak. It was important to pack the tubes in tightly, so they wouldn’t move around.

Paper tubes inside the bee houses, cut below the top service

Paper tubes inside the bee hotels, cut below the top service.

Granton Primary School focus heavily on eco and environment in their studies, and students came armed with information about solitary bees to teach us adults, and had even made quizzes to test our knowledge!

One of the things I was surprised to learn is that solitary bees do not sting! I was definitely under the impression that all bees stung before! But then, I also wasn’t previously aware that there are so many species of bee in Britain either (approximately 250!), so assumed they all had the same characteristics. Turns out, they don’t.

Bee houses - bee quiz

Getting tested on our newly acquired bee knowledge!

 

So why is it important to protect bees?

As pollinators, bees help to produce more than three-quarters of the world’s crops, but they are under threat due to a decline in suitable nest sites and fewer wild flowers. There has also been an increase in pesticide use in the UK, which can be explored in the classroom using Espresso’s Key Stage 1 video, Protecting bees.

Of the approximate 250 bee species in Britain, 25% are listed as endangered. It feels so important to do something as simple as making (or buying) a bee hotel, and hanging it in your school playground or garden. The paper tubes will need maintaining (replacing) at the end of the summer, but again, it really is simple!

Bee houses - child working

Granton Primary School students decided to decorate their bee hotels with bee pictures.

For more information on bee hotels, take a look at Espresso’s Hotel for bees  video, which we used to kick-start our Impact Day project. It explores how scientists at the University of Reading have been using bee hotels.

bee video

Watching a Discovery Education Espresso video on bee hotels.

I loved learning all these bee facts at Impact Day this year, and feel like I’ve only just brushed the surface of the issues that bees are currently facing in today’s world. Fortunately, I came across some further reading on Wildlife Kate’s using Wildlife to learn blog for Michael Drayton Junior School. It just so happens that this week, she’s discussing what happens in a bee hotel, which for me, is a perfect follow up to my Impact Day of learning from (and making an impact with) students!

 

Bee houses - total bottles

At the end of the day, the school took our completed bee houses to hand out to its students, to take home and put in their gardens, or around their school.

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4 Comments

  1. sharon bull said:

    What a fabulous blog, which also taught me a few things I didn’t know about bees! I love to see children getting involved with protecting the environment and nature, so it is a huge well done to Granton Primary School too. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kate Snowdon said:

      Thank you Sharon, it really was special to let the children lead the learning. Especially when they had so much information to offer us about the environment.

  2. Nett Site.com said:

    I agree with Sharon. I’m glad I stumbled upon this site looking for some platforms for education and teaching. Despite you’re learning smth new about methods and techniques of teaching, you learn as well new about this world. Even I, who’s working with content every day, haven’t known such details about our nature 🙂

  3. Pingback: Making an impact with bee hotels | Kate on Conservation

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