Think Like a Bee: Q&A with Teacher Kip Jacobs

KIp Jacobs

Kip Jacobs

KIp Jacobs

Kip Jacobs

Seventh-grade science teacher and long-time Beepods customer, Kip Jacobs, chatted with me about how he uses his school’s Beepod to teach students how to think like a bee, make observations, and record data. The University School of Milwaukee teacher enthusiastically shared his advice on teaching bees to students of various ages.

What does this process of teaching about bees look like?

Each time we go out it’s a little different because we have to figure out what’s going on with the bees. We teach students to start thinking like a bee. What I usually do is get a bar out of the hive and put it on a setup table that I have out near my hive so I can keep the bees far enough away from them. I don’t do as much monitoring of the hive with the younger kids but I do a lot of teaching out there. One of the things I love about the Beepods system is they have those windows on the side. That really is their first introduction to the hive. I go after the hive with just my gloves on and a hat. We talk about bees before we even go near the hive. 

The Beepods inspection form includes the names of the primary and secondary teachers. Do you have another teacher with you at the hive?

I was out there as a primary and I had another adult, Judy, as my secondary. Judy is the school librarian and also a former beekeeper. I like to have two people out knowing how to handle the hive. It makes instruction so much easier, If things go south with the hive I talk to Judy and say, “Judy, I really think we need to move away from the hive right now.” The kids can move off and I can put the hive back together again. 

Is that secondary teacher especially important when students forget to think like a bee?

With kids that are younger, I need another person to help with the maintenance of the hive and the instruction of the hive. I consider those to be two separate things when I do it with younger kids. It’s a good way to work it because it just flows a little better and you don’t have to worry about how to move the kids away from the hive. You can tell a seventh-grader to go stand over by the tree but you can’t tell a preschooler that if you’re not their teacher. If their teacher’s uncomfortable it’s just better to have two people who understand bees to be out there with the younger kids. 

Who fills out the inspection checklist, you, or your students?

The students can have a copy of the form or the teacher can record the notes. If I have seventh graders, I will say, “I want you to make sure that you record this as we go through the hive together.”

How do you record what you find in the hive?

Everyone has their own way of recording things but we try to use the symbols on the inspection form: B for Brood, P for Pollen, H for Capped Honey, etc. We might also note that we found a right angle comb and that we did some comb repair. 

Do you also record supplies that you bring out to the hive?

Yes, that goes in the “Observations and Actions” section. For example, we might bring gallon bags, water, bleach water, and cutters for zip ties. 

How are your bees doing?

I just got a nuc from Beepods about a week ago and it was a huge nuc. I didn’t know how big it was until I opened it up. I transferred from one box to another and realized the box I was transferring it into was just as big as the harvest box. I had another big Beepod hanging around and so then I transferred them over to the big Beepod. And they are going. I probably have at least 13-14 bars right now. They are getting into the flow and are going to start building. I’m going to be looking for queen cells. All of that I could have recorded with kids if we had more time to do that. I have to stick to my regular curriculum a little bit. I do find a couple of kids that each year are really interested in this and that’s when I try to say, “Hey, you could do some monitoring of this if you wanted to or you could get a hive to yourself and do that as well.” 

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Bill Polacheck

Bill is a teacher, environmentalist, and freelance writer. If he's not out in nature, he's happy to be writing about it.'

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Bill Polacheck
Bill is a teacher, environmentalist, and freelance writer. If he's not out in nature, he's happy to be writing about it.

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