Thursday, July 13, 2006
MEEMIC grant pollinates beekeeping project
MEEMIC insurance agent John Pino, (middle left), SEHS Dean Mary Otto (middle right), and Dyanne Tracy (far right) don the beekeeper’s gear that will help Michigan students enjoy learning math, science and language arts. Kathy Hall, (far left), is a MEEMIC marketing representative.
By Karen Hildebrandt, contributing writer
Bees — they can ruin a family picnic or make a group of kids run for cover on the playground. But for Dyanne Tracy, bees represent a chance to make a lasting impression on a child.
Tracy, chair of the Department of Teacher Development and Educational Studies, believes beekeeping is a lost art with great learning potential. In addition to demonstrating basic biology up close, a comprehensive beekeeping curriculum unit can instill an appreciation for the environment, horticulture and agriculture as well as developing math and language skills.
A part-time beekeeper herself, Tracy convinced the MEEMIC Foundation for the Future of Education to fund the first phase of her project.
“Dyanne had this great idea to create a unit on beekeeping that would touch educators and students throughout the state. She is so dynamic, and the project is so innovative, we could see that this would fire up the students,” said Kristy Mitchell, director of the foundation, which is supported by MEEMIC Insurance.
Tracy’s insurance agent, John Pino, president of the Pino Insurance Agency in Rochester and a SEHS resource and development board member, encouraged her to apply for the $2,500 grant.
“This grant gave me the seed money for my grand idea,” Tracy said. “Beekeeping can teach science, math and even language arts skills in a very exciting way, but I had to find out if children and teachers would be afraid to work around 50,000 honey bees.”
The grant from MEEMIC allowed Tracy to hold a trial workshop at her personal apiary. After purchasing 16 beekeeping suits and other tools, she invited children of all ages, plus some educators, to her apiary where they received instruction on how to smoke bees to keep them calm, feed them sugar water and observe their behavior.
“The results were fantastic,” Tracy said. “Everyone felt very calm while working near the bees. They said they learned a lot and recommended ways in which it could help them learn other skills, such as math skills to document and graph insect behavior or using language arts to write and present reports on their beekeeping experience.
“Ultimately, I want to develop a two-week course for teachers on how to become novice beekeepers. They will then set up a beehive at their schools so they can teach this wonderful activity to students. By providing this unit on a wide scale, beekeeping could have a big impact on improving many core curriculum skills within our Michigan schools.”
For more information about the MEEMIC Foundation for the Future of Education, visit the MEEMIC Web site.