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It’s all about the bees

More than 30 pounds of honey collected from school hives

STANTON TOWNSHIP — Remote learning, cancelled events, disrupted schedules, and new learning protocols. In spite of it all, it’s business as usual at E.B. Holman School in Stanton Township. This month, 31.5 lbs. of honey was extracted, filtered, and bottled from two bee hives in the school garden located on the E.B. Holman campus. While not the first year for bee-keeping at the school, it is the first year that there was enough honey for a harvest.

Community partners, Dave and Cathy Caspary from Caspary Farm, have guided the student/teacher team in their beekeeping learning adventure. They’ve taught lessons to the students and have worked alongside teachers in the bee yard giving expert advice from beginning to end – how to start the hive right through how to extract honey and overwinter bees.

But the journey didn’t start here. For two years, E.B. Holman was fortunate enough to have different community partners. Kathleen Harter and Todd Gemelli taught the basics of beekeeping and fostered the school’s first hives at their farm. The bee keeping community lends support to learners at all stages of the process and E.B. Holman has benefitted from that time and again. With the supply chain interrupted by COVID-19, some essential tools for honey extraction still haven’t made their way here, so local beekeepers stepped in, loaning equipment and providing ideas for emergency substitutes. The harvest was successful thanks to innovative thinking.

The desire for a schoolyard beehive came 10 years ago when three teachers visited an apiary on Beaver Island. While learning about the role of pollinators in the ecosystem, the declining populations of bees was also discussed. It fit into E.B. Holman’s long-term Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) project, focusing on using the land in a way that supports food production and utilizes the watershed responsibly.

The beehives are located within a newly fenced-in garden area with raised beds, orchard, and a greenhouse. Funding for the garden has come from support from the Portage Health Foundation and the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative. Even when students are out of the classroom, they can help to move this project forward. One recent at-home assignment was to design a new label for next year’s honey jars. Project activities also include school-wide composting, outdoor classroom, disc golf course, geology walkway, and K-8 bird studies. All projects reflect interdisciplinary grade-level learning standards – students design models to help create solutions to real-world issues and older students present findings and lessons to younger students in the school.

Yes, it’s all about the bees, but it’s also about so much more as students and teachers engage in place-based learning at E.B. Holman School.

The Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative connects schools and communities in stewardship of the Lake Superior Watershed. It provides professional learning opportunities for teachers as well as funding for student-led stewardship projects in local schools. This year, funding has been provided in partnership between the NOAA Great Lakes Bay Watershed Education & Training Program and Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative — Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences for Rural Schools.

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