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Students buzzing about bees

6/6/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Summit County Beekeepers Association members helped students from King and St. Anthony of Padua elementary schools learn about bees in a program held at West Akron resident Jeanne Ott’s property, who is shown above at far right. One of the four learning stations included an observation hive, shown below top right, with students looking for the queen bee, who was marked with a red dot.
Beekeepers show students what the inside of a hive looks like.
Another learning station at the bee program included hives that students built earlier in the year in class. They are shown with one of the students dressed in a beekeeper suit standing next to them.
WEST AKRON — Book learning came to life during a King Elementary School bee program field trip May 16.

The bee program, in its ninth year, is the culmination of in-class studies, according to King Elementary fourth-grade science teacher Charlene Tabata. As part of the program, fourth- and fifth-grade students at the school, as well as fourth-graders from St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School in North Hill, visit Jeanne Ott’s West Akron home to learn all about bees. Ott is the widow of former Akron Public Schools Superintendent Conrad Ott, who died three years ago.

Ott said Steve Albrecht, of Acme Fresh Market, gave her husband one hive upon retirement to “give him something to do.” The Otts hired a beekeeper to mind the hive, and soon after, the school bee program was started.

“Conrad believed it was really important for the children to understand the environment and how important bees are,” she said.

Ott said students are visited in class four times a year prior to the on-site visit to discuss bees. Those lessons include building a box hive that is then placed on the Ott property.

“The kids really look forward to this,” said Tabata. “It makes the in-class learning come alive.”

Students visiting the Ott property that day rotated through four different stations manned mostly by retired teachers and Summit County Beekeepers Association members. The stations included: the cycle of life, where six bearded lady butterflies raised by the St. Anthony students were released; an observation hive and a discussion on the need for water; a visit to the hives and a discussion on tools used in beekeeping; and a presentation on the parts of a hive. Students also got something from each site: beeswax soap, seed packets, honey sticks (after being warned not to eat them on-site or else the bees would buzz them) and pencils because they represent the shapes found in a honeycomb.

One of the stations was presented by a former King fourth-grader who once took part in the bee field trip. Jake Allread, now a ninth-grader, said he decided to become a beekeeper about a year ago and helps out at the Ott hives. He also has one hive at his grandmother’s residence.

Currently, beekeeper Mary Sobczak serves as a mentor to beekeepers such as Allread.

“Beekeepers check on the hives about twice a week and look for diseases and treat for mites,” said Sobczak. “They also look out for the hive beetle, which has just arrived in Ohio and can cause problems for the bees.”

Allread talked to students about hives, tools such as a smoker and what they are used for (the smoker calms the bees), and let students try on a bee suit. Beekeeper Bill McKinnon, who said his father, Andy McKinnon, was one of the founding fathers of the Summit County Beekeepers Association, assisted Allread in the presentation.

McKinnon said he has been a beekeeper for 12 years and does it “for the honey.”

Sobczak said she hopes other students will be inspired by this bee field trip.

“Honey bees are the second-most-studied insect in the world, and that is because pollination is so important to the food cycle,” she said. “Children need to learn about the whole picture of the cycle of life, especially city kids.”

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