The honeybee is our state insect, but it’s a great theme even if you don’t have that connection. A bee theme lets you be Busy Bees or The Bee’s Knees, to ask What’s the Buzz? or to Bee All you Can Bee, and to have Bee-Attitudes. You can get your room thoroughly bee-autiful for the end-of-the-year spelling, math, or geography bee, and leave it up for back to school with just a change of the words on the bulletin board.
For bees, there are lots of ready-made classroom resources. You can have bulletin boards, name tags, and all that jazz with no extra effort on your part, and save your creativity for those alligator units where there’s nothing readily available.
Trend’s Busy Bees Bulletin Board Set has a beehive and a bunch of bees, perfect for job charts or new student welcome on the classroom door. Eureka’s Beehive has a similar approach. Eureka’s Way to Bee Bulletin Board has cards with bees reminding students to “Bee kind,” “Bee prompt,” “Bee neat,” and more. Trend’s Color Bees has bees, hexagons of color creating a color wheel, and basic color theory info.
Honey.com has a clever group of clip art bees to enliven your paperwork.
The Bee Notepads are great for making centers. Having a good collection of centers allows you to meet the needs of students at many different levels.
Here are a couple of options for your computer center, too:
- HB School has a simple online counting game that gives basic mouse practice.
- Alien Empire is an interactive online lesson on bee anatomy with an impressive sound track.
But you may also want to study bees. I’ve gathered some links for you. Each will do a good job of covering the main points for bee study at different grade levels.
- Enchanted Learning’s printout is a starting point or assessment for bee anatomy.
- Discovery has a lesson plan requiring the use of five tomato plants (Arkansas teachers,you can get the state vegetable in there, too) to demonstrate pollination. This lesson also discusses the “killer bees.”
- Try a collection of word problems (with data included) comparing the common honeybee to the Africanized (“killer bee”) variety.
- Longwood Garden’s bee page includes a number of activities.
- Scholastic has a plan with reproducibles and hands-on ideas.
- National Geographic has an article on current issues with bees. This would be a useful item for environment frameworks and for reading with middle school and high school students.
- Awana has a Bible memory verse book for children using a bee theme in Sunday School or Christian schools, or for our homeschool families. This is a fairly large PDF file
Bees have been a favorite for character study since Isaac Watts used them in his famous poem “Against Mischief and Idleness.” (If you think that you have never heard of this poem, click the link for a surprise.) Your classroom might benefit from a reminder of the diligence and cooperation found in the hives.
Isaac Watts is the guy who wrote “Joy to the World,” and he had a very sad life as far as romance was concerned. Remind me to tell you about that someday. When thinking of bees, though, we cannot forget that his poem which begins, “How doth the busy little bee improve each shining hour…” has now been almost completely eclipsed by Lewis Carroll’s parody, “How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail, and pour the waters of the Nile o’er every golden scale.” Have your older students compare the two and see if they can come up with another on their own.
Bees produce honey and beeswax, both substances that people find useful.
Here, Jane Steinkraus removes honey from the comb at the Arkansas insect festival. Jane keeps bees and she’s always happy to share her expertise with kids; maybe you have a local beekeeper who’d do the same.
We don’t advocate field trips to see bees, because there are people with life-threatening allergies to beestings, but a safely contained demonstration like this really stays with kids.
No bees around? You can still taste honey, smell beeswax, and think about the important relationship between human beings and bees.
If you have a microwave, you can make lip balm from beeswax. Here’s how:
- Measure beeswax (it comes in pellets) into a heatproof measuring cup.
- Measure the same amount of almond oil into the same cup. You can use other kinds of oil; almond oil smells nice.
- Heat in the microwave for about two minutes, and then stir till the beeswax is melted.
- You can add a bit of vanilla extract, almond extract, or peppermint oil if you like.
- Pour the mixture into tubes or any tiny container, one for each student. (You need one, too!)