Kids Learn to Love Their Bees at the American Beekeeping Federation Conference

On Friday, January 11th from 9:00 am – Noon, 343 local and visiting elementary-aged kids, and 267 teachers, parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and ABF attendees were welcomed to the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Hotel to participate in the “Kids and Bees” program. This no-charge educational program has been a traditional featured event with the American Beekeeping Federation conference for over 20 years, and is a “don’t miss” opportunity for school groups, homeschooled kids, scouts, and clubs. Kids and their teachers or parents engaged in a room full of hands-on exhibits under the themes of, “The Art of Beekeeping,” “The Science of Beekeeping,” “The World of Beekeeping,” and “The Future of Bees: It’s Up to You!” They learned about the art and science behind beeswax, honey, pollination, ultraviolet bee vision, and so much more! Students made their way through each station, engaging with beekeepers and Honey Queens from around the US, and in activities that harnessed their senses and imaginations.

So much appreciation and gratitude to our sponsor, The Foundation for the Preservation of Bees, and our host, The American Beekeeping Federation, and also the hardworking staff at the Myrtle Beach Sheraton (who rushed to our aid when we had a puker!!); to our volunteers from the Myrtle Beach community, the ABF community, the Blackwater Beekeepers, and Savannah Bee Company; to our interns Stephanie and Andre, to our super volunteer Mike, to Phylicia (home in Oregon with her new baby, Olivia, and totally rocking coordination from afar); to the HONEY Convention characters; to GloryBee and Mann Lake for donating honey and beeswax supplies, and to our partners, Carolina Bee Farm, The Burns and the Bees, Moore Farms Botanical Garden, and the Myrtle Beach Garden Club for bringing beekeeping gear and educational materials.

Though the overall vision for the “Kids and Bees” event is my brainchild, it truly takes a village to pull off an event of this magnitude. Year after year, more people are involved as partners and in leadership roles, and year after year, the event gets better and better! 

I’d like to share my overarching goals for this event, and if you work with kids, I encourage you to adopt these points:

  • Create a feeling in the room that encourages them to love and appreciate bees.

  • Stay away from the rhetoric that “all the bees are dying” so we need to “save” them out of fear.

  • Kids love mind-blowing facts to impress their friends (one bee will only make 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey is her lifetime, bees can recognize human faces, bees can see flowers in a way we can’t through “UV vision,” etc.) There are endless cool facts about bees!

  • Kids also love stuff that is weird and gross. Set up a few microscopes and loops with prepared slides of bee parts, a Varroa mite, a “zombie fly,” etc.

  • Be real with the kids – answer every question in relatable scientific terms and don’t underestimate how smart they are! Even Kindergarteners can grasp some pretty large concepts like honey mass and density if you have the right tools! 

  • Tap in to your beekeeper resources as educators.  Beekeepers LOVE to talk about bees! Having real beekeepers on-site to share their love and passion for bees is infectious.

  • Kids love activities – give them things to do. I mix a couple of “just for fun” crafts, like bee headbands and finger puppets, but for the most part the activity stations have learning objectives. A couple of examples: at the honey station teach them about the flavor and color profiles of honey, most people don’t really understand that honey is made from flower nectar, and the flower source determines the final product! At the beeswax candle rolling station, show them a picture of wax being squeezed out of an abdomen and explain how bees make wax, and all the ways humans use wax.         

My main goal for the American Beekeeping Federation Kids and Bees event is to create an experience for kids, and adults too, to be immersed in a bubble of positivity. On an almost daily basis, I remind myself of Maya Angelou’s bee-utiful words, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  My wish is for the group in the room to have a marvelous time, and to associate this feeling with bees. “For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” –Baba Dioum 

For more tips on how to teach kids about bees, please for our free e-book, “Kids and Bees Handbook: Ideas & Inspirations for Teaching Kids About Bees.”

For more pictures of the Kids and Bees event at ABF, please check out our Facebook page here.   

Sarah Red-LairdComment