First grade teacher, Mr. Bailey, has had an indoor bee hive for the past four years at Washington STEM Academy. The introduction of the hive was awarded through the Red Apple Grant with the Warsaw Education Foundation. Mr. Bailey has used the bees as a study focus for teaching life cycles and the life sciences with his first graders. Students have learned so much about the bees by studying them closely in ways that otherwise would not be possible. We get a close up view to how they communicate with all their different jobs, make food for the colony, protect the hive, care for the queen as she lays eggs, and even do dances!
The most recent development this past spring and summer has been the planting of pollinator gardens with the new landscaping around Washington. On the south end of the building, in the front, is a wildflower garden that has been seeded and will be flowering in the next couple of years. In addition, we have pollinator gardens planted on the east and north sides of the building. All of these gardens came from Mr. Bailey's first graders who asked some really good questions. You see, a year or so ago, our entire hive of bees suddenly died one weekend. We were curious as to what happened and students came up with some theories about the cause of the harm to the bees. One of those theories was the chemical spraying that goes on in fields and areas where bees will often gather pollen to bring back to the hive. Students in Mr. Bailey's class started asking, what if we provide food for the bees ourselves? Can we plant gardens for the bees to gather food from that is safe for them and close to their hive? And so the idea of pollinator gardens around Washington was born.
Washington has partnered with Scott Fetters, from the Indiana Fish and Wildlife Service, to aid in providing wildflower seeds for this project. Joel Wihebrink from Wihebrink Landscaping Management has generously donated time and resources to install the plants and seeds for these gardens. Mr. Bailey's students have also assisted in the planting of these gardens around the school. This project is no small task and Washington has been greatly blessed by the community partnerships that have come alongside this effort!
Throughout our time of caring for the bees we have had experts in the field lead and guide us. Jeremy Corson, husband of Mrs. Corson, has donated time and resources to tend to the many needs of the hive. He has helped us expand our hives as we have seen our one hive grow so large that it needed to be split for another hive. Now as you pass on the north side of Washington you will see a couple of outdoor bee hives flourishing. Jim LeMasters, from Warsaw Community Schools, has contributed time and knowledge to ensuring our beehive is successful. Jeremy and Jim have been a powerful duo in setting our hives up well.
Finally, completed just this past week is a new educational display on the outside entrance to Mr. Bailey's beehive. Mr. Bailey worked with his students and with Brad Robert from Robert Signs to create a long-lasting wrap to educate students, families, and the community about bees and all of their fascinating jobs, facts, and benefits. There is a plexiglass cut-out in the front of the display so that everyone can safely see the bees entering and exiting the hive. We would invite everyone to come and see the bee exhibit on the north east side of Washington and learn more about the incredible lives of bees!