A Honeyed History!

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Bees: A Honeyed History is a beautiful book filled with exquisite vintage like illustrations. This is a wonderful book to read with kids or simply for adults who are interested in honeybees. Socha celebrates bees by teaching readers about the history and the science behind these exceptional pollinators.  What a wonderful way to spark an interest in nature with our kids! The oversized presentation of this book allows for great pictures and diagrams. Although the text may be a little advanced for younger children, the images will keep little readers engaged.  A delight for parents and children with a desire to go beyond the basics of bees.

Feds Move to Ban Neonics!

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It seems that the Canadian Government has begun to take major steps towards enforcing a ban on neonicotinoids. Following the lead of the European Union, which banned the outdoor use of neonicotinoids in May of this year, it was confirmed today that Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is releasing a plan to phase out 2 of the neonicotinoid pesticides that have contributed to the loss of honeybee colonies and the decline of wild bee populations. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/08/14/ottawa-to-phase-out-pesticides-linked-to-bee-deaths.html

 

 

Neonic ban lifted by Trump Administration

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Despite substantial scientific research profiling the disastrous consequences of neoinoc pesticides on pollinator habitats, it seems that President Trump has taken measures to lift the ban that was put in place by the Obama Administration. Neonics are currently banned in the EU and are restricted to an extent in Canada.

This article reveals the alarming trend in US policy, of disregarding the work and suggested measures of environmental organizations. Certainly a major step backwards in terms of educating the population on the declining Bee population and the imminent danger that this decline will have on our food sources.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/04/trump-administration-lifts-ban-on-pesticides-linked-to-declining-bee-numbers

Are we witnessing the extinction of bees ?

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“Once abundant in the grasslands and prairies in 31 states in the East and Midwest, the rusty patched bumble bee’s population has been decimated by as much as 95 percent by some estimates, and now exists only in isolated pockets in 12 states and the province of Ontario, Canada.” – Claire Bernish, The Free Thought Project

We are concerned about all species of bees. This article is important and very relevant as we learn about the contribution of pollinators to our daily lives in North America. Give it a read and share your thoughts.

Are we witnessing the extinction of bees ?

Pollinator Garden Grows Wild

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Over the past three years I have learned that pollinators, native bees specifically, are doing much better in cities than they are in the country side and farming areas. This came as a big surprise to me but once the reasons were explained, it made total sense. You see, cities are bursting with polyculture gardens replete with a barrage of plants and vegetation. Pollinators thrive on this type of vegetation. Farms generally offer the opposite and are largely a monoculture of plants all in rows, as far as the eye can see. Native bees need a variety of plants to thrive.
Recently, there are cases where cities and towns are asking homeowners to leave sections of their gardens to grow wild. The hope is that these native gardens will draw pollinators to the space and keep them in good health. Except…this is a difficult request to follow for many people. Home gardeners take pride in beautiful spaces and a wild garden does not present as such to most.
This was a particularly difficult concept for me, a self-confessed Type A teacher, to comprehend and execute. Leaving a mix of plants to grow and extend and stretch out is exactly what I have avoided for all the years that I have been planting a garden. I am quick to divide perennials and make the space neat by weeding and cutting back on any vines that grow too close to another plant. So, this summer I am challenging myself (and my neighbours) to let go of the order in my garden. I am letting my plants go where they may in hopes that more pollinators will grace us and help us to keep learning.
Please, post pictures of your pollinator garden and show us how you are contributing to #bringbackthebees

Pollinator Week

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In celebration of pollinator week, we are sharing an update on a new project that we have been building.  But first…a little background information to help lend some context to our endeavor.

As educators, we have been learning about pollinators through an educational lens.  As such, we have witnessed the beauty of true inquiry as it relates to experiential learning.  When students have the opportunity to learn with all of their senses, they will naturally begin to follow a path of questioning that develops their own knowledge. More importantly, students become personally invested in their learning when they feel comfortable enough to pose questions and confident enough to explore the answers.

This model for learning quickly became the base of our Pollinator Inquiry Project at our school.  Eventually, this project led us to our partnership with Bee City Canada and, in February 2016, we graciously accepted the title of the first Bee City School in Canada.  Since that time, our students have been getting outside and integrating everything that they have learned in class and in our community green space.

The next step of our journey will hopefully encourage the growth of the Bee School Program and Bee City Businesses.  We are working on valuable resources and curriculum that will support all people, schools and businesses to become Pollinator Protectors.  Please, join in the conversation here and let us know what you are doing in your community to welcome pollinators and embrace your own desire to learn.

*Photos are a sneak peek into some filming that we put together for our project.

Scaffolding a Pollinator Garden

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Last week, we were fortunate to receive a gift from our Bee City Canada contributors in the form of a “pollinator pack” of plants. This collection of plants and vegetable seedlings will help us to grow our garden into a perennial paradise. We are aiming to create a sustainable pollinator garden where students can enjoy the greenspace in their very own community. We hope to grow, nurture and share the vegetables with our visitors and families as the summer comes to a close (we will be sure to keep you posted in September).
So here we are, we have the space and we have the plants…but where do we begin? Well, we engaged in a very rich inquiry and we learned how to begin a garden from scratch. Using Google Suites, students worked on a live Google sheet where they recorded important planting facts about the plants that were gifted to us.
We soon realized that many of the plants would eventually grow up and out, so we need space. Most importantly, we learned that the key to growing an aesthetically pleasing, but functioning garden, is to consider the potential height of each plant. With this idea in mind, the students set out to plan the garden. With some guidance, we decided to plant the vegetables that grow up high, such as tomatoes, in the back of the garden along a makeshift fence. We planted kale just in front to ascertain that we could reach over and pick tomatoes from the vines. Eventually, we will plant lettuce in front of the kale which will spread low to the ground. We hope to see a layered garden where the students can easily reach each plant as the time for picking approaches.
Many lessons have been learned so far and we are absolutely certain that there is more to knowledge to come as we realize our ultimate goal…getting kids outside and making learning tangible. Keep checking our blog for updated pics of the school pollinator garden…we are just beginning!

Pollinating Tomatoes

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In Ontario, tomatoes are ripe for picking in late June and early July. Wild bees such as mud bees and the yellow-faced bumblebees frequently gravitate towards this yellow flower in its early bloom and continue pollinating it through until a rather large, juicy tomato appears ready to pick and serve. This picture, in Northern California (care of Lisa Gregor), shows the plant in its early pollinating stage. You can see the small green bulbs starting to appear. We have our Bumblebees to thank for our flourishing, locally grown tomatoes.

Who is Munching my Milkweed?

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A powerful pollinator magnet. The common milkweed can be slightly invasive towards other plants and flowers in your pollinator garden. It’s a bit of a bully perennial but is unmatched in terms of its abundance of nectar and rich foliage. Butterflies and bees alike simply love this plant and they will most certainly gravitate toward your pollinator space if you choose to offer these for pollination.

https://amzn.to/2IUhGML

Watercolour

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We were so excited to try these new liquid watercolours from Sargent and are happy to report that this is our new favourite tool when teaching students about colour. These paints are extremely bright and mix very well on all sorts of paper. As you can see in the examples of student work, the Sargent Watercolours Magic paint bled perfectly creating a gorgeous effect. Students painted the page with water first and then added a dab of concentrated Sargent paint.

We suggest purchasing the ten-count kit for a classroom. While the watercolour lasts for a lot longer than other watercolour paints, it will quickly become a favourite for your students.

We also used Pentel Art Oil pastels to create and highlight the lines and pollen in the paintings. The pastels pair nicely with the watercolours and do not smudge with little hands.

https://amzn.to/2LhJKHz