Educator Name: Julia Kirchner
School Name: Milwaukee Public Schools
Hawthorn Glen is a 23 acre nature center that is run by Milwaukee Public Schools. On an annual basis, we serve about 12,000 children (mostly K4 through fourth grade) who come to the center on science field trips with their classroom teachers during the school day. Children are taught about indigenous animals in a small (live animal) museum and then are taken hiking outside in our prairie and woods. To add to our existing repertoire of nature experiences, we would like to purchase a top bar beehive(and accessories) to keep honey bees on the property. I am in the process of becoming certified as a beekeeper, and we are hoping to have a hive operating at the center this coming spring. (We are also hoping to add bees to an old hive inside the building which is located in a reconstruction of a tree.)
Our "Big on Bugs" curriculum is one of the most popular programs requested by the classroom teachers. One of the world's most important "bugs" is the honeybee because of its role in pollinating the vast majority of the food crops that are consumed by humans (and our domestic animals). In addition, bees make honey which is an extremely interesting and important food substance. Urban children have very few experiences with animals of any kind and are usually terrified of bees instead of understanding their essential role in the ecosystem. The top bar hive we wish to purchase has a window for viewing the bees, and could be utilized as a visual example for explaining that very small creatures can have extremely important roles in nature.
It helps small children to actually see the plants and animals we are discussing instead of just talking about them or showing pictures. If the children see the bees flying out of the hive, and landing on the flowering trees (such as the Hawthorns for which our center was named), the prairie flowers, and on the flowering vegetable plants in our small garden that we use for feeding our museum animals, they will begin to understand the importance of pollination (and of bees).
Teachers, as stated above, frequently request the bug program. Young urban children, unfortunately, often think that food comes from the store and that is the end of the story. They also think that all "bugs" are dirty or disgusting or want to hurt them. While it cannot be honestly stated that these young children want to learn about insects and other things they classify as "bugs" (with the possible exception of butterflies), it is very important that they DO learn about them.