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Norval bees

Bees taking centre stage at Norval

The Norval Outdoor School has a new observation beehive that has enhanced a program that’s increasing boys’ interest in and understanding of how important bees are to society.

“While there have been beehives at Norval for quite some time, we just recently made a new observation hive with plexiglass windows so that students can check out what the bees are doing if it’s too cold or rainy for us to open the hive,” says instructor Katie Tanz, who’s in charge of Norval’s beekeeping programs for students.

“We had a new colony move in, led by an Italian queen bee we named Sophia. She and her crew of workers and drones seem to be settling in quite nicely.”

While the maintenance of the hives is outsourced to a company called Dutchman’s Gold, students are able to get a lot of hands-on experience with them — particularly Grade 5 boys.

“We get the whole class dressed up in bee suits and do a hive visit, after which the boys help extract honey with a hot knife straight from the comb,” says Tanz. “After the honey extraction is complete, we jar it and the boys each get to bring home a jar of Norval honey.

“What has been really neat to see is that students who come into the lesson with a fear or discomfort with bees often come out of it with appreciation after learning that bees are responsible, by way of pollination, for one-third of the food on our plates, as well as the complexity of the social structures in the hive, and how hard they work.”

Tushar Arora became particularly taken with bees after learning about their importance and unfortunate plight during a Grade 7 trip to Norval this fall. He has created a website called Bumble Love, a video and pamphlets (which he handed out at Norval’s Oct. 16 open house), and is scheduled to do a bee presentation for students and teachers.

“Bumble Love is an organization where we fund-raise and try to get donations for helping the bees,” it says on the website.

“Bees are very important to us and all donations will be used for bees. We also plan to incorporate ourselves later and start a online store where you could buy bee stuff! We love bees! They love us!”

Arora also plans to plant a new pollinator garden at the Prep, according to Tanz.

“It has been really impressive to witness a student become so passionate about a cause and then so proactive about making a difference,” says Tanz.

The beehives are just one part of a year-long food-themed program the students participate in at Norval and Upper Canada College’s Prep School. They also make and can applesauce and maple syrup, and take part in a “100-mile meal” during their various visits to Norval throughout the year. The boys learn about where their food comes from, and the process it goes through to get to their plates, by participating in the preparation firsthand.

Families who attended Norval’s fall open house got to visit the observation hive. They also had the opportunity to hike on a new trail built by Year 1 students in the spring that connected existing trails to a new parcel of neighbouring land that the College purchased last year.

The UCC community is invited to Norval’s winter open house on Jan. 22.

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