“Bee” an Advocate for Earth

541871_10152735073770564_466614551_n When travails of life wear us down, I have taught my children to seek solace in nature’s wonders. Last weekend, for example, I’d really needed a “fix” and went to a local park district owned farm to commune with the sheep. A particular sheep really “connected” with me and followed me around the property, probably to get more petting. Somehow, after that encounter, I felt better, at peace, and happier. The long drawn out winter had taken a toll, and this gave me resilience.

Similarly, my kids have acknowledged that they find the same comfort from being outdoors, and they reminisce about camping trips we tried to take each year. Alhamdullilah, I feel that I gave them a valuable resource and coping mechanism in appreciating the creation and grounding comfort it provides; for where we live, we really don’t get to feel comfortable outdoors from November until April, and this April still features “April showers” that have kept us bound indoors…except for the recent foray to the farm. Too much of a good thing, we have a bit of flooding in our basement that I will attend to after writing this piece about resources you can use for class in acknowledgement of Earth Day, this Monday, April 22nd.

Earth Day Ideas

Introduce students toward stewardship of the Earth and citizenship with the power of petitions. There is one for support of organic farmers at http://tinyurl.com/d6l8sbo. Students need to be at least 13 years of age.

Edutopia.org, one of my favorites, has a blogger, Matt Davis, who posted “Earth Day 2013: Lesson Plans, Reading Lists, and Classroom Ideas” http://tinyurl.com/d4kqbt8. This has many resources for lesson plans, unit plans, games. Also, there are handouts, activity sheets, online games (really fun!), and contest links. Note that the EcoKids Canada link within Matt’s piece has resources for First Nation and the Inuit as well. From here you can get ideas for activities, projects, and scavenger hunts.

What About the Common Core State Standards for ELA non-fiction?

My latest interest, as prompted by speaking to a 40 year veteran of beekeeping at the farm, is learning about bees. One third of commercial beehives have been decimated in the past year, and the impact is dramatic on several levels. The crisis has been labeled Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and it might qualify as an intriguing topic integrated across several academic disciplines for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that increase the quantity of non-fiction reading expected of students.

Peruse WKSU’s Vivian Goodman’s “Why You Should Care if Honey Bees Can’t Find Their Way Home,” www.wksu.org/news/story/35148. The site has a 7 minute podcast as well that gives a bit of history about legendary bee expert A.I. Root and serves as a hook to the article.

There are many amazing things about bees. Their antennae are smell detectors, and are up to 100 times more sensitive to odors of flowers, nectar, and propolis than humans’ odor detection abilities. Pollution dilutes bees’ sense of smell, for which the antennae operate independently, similar to our ears. They navigate by the sun, and communicate the location of nectar plants by “dancing” to direct members of their hive. What is spectacular I found is that their precision in direction is in single degrees of orientation and that they also home in using the same. Commercial beekeepers that travel all over the country know to relocate the hives only after sundown so that bees can reorient their location somewhere new each day. How they know exactly where to find their hives, the inner workings, efficiency of labor, and processes are miracles. I have learned these things from my current read, which is A World Without Bees by Allison Benjamin and Brian McCallum.

Much of the book gives insight to research conducted about CCD and potential reasons for 800,000 colonies being lost in 2007, and 1 million in 2008. This crisis has affected bees in Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America. Theories include implications from disease, fungus, pesticide toxicity, viruses, and electro-magnetic disruption. France and Italy reported associating a nicotine-based pesticide, imidacloprid, manufactured by Bayer CropScience, with CCD, and it is now partially banned in France. Neonicotinoids are sometimes called “neonics” and are neurotoxins that have been implicated in affecting the bees’ sense of navigation and immunity, according to an article in Mother Jones by Tom Philpott, “3 New Studies Link Bee Decline to Bayer Pesticide,” http://tinyurl.com/cdjqwlk .

With high stakes on both sides, Big Agriculture vs. Bees there is a petition also against the use of these pesticides at http://tinyurl.com/bbekaqj .

Films that may be of interest are:
“Silence of the Bees” http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/silence-of-the-bees/introduction/38/
“More Than Honey” http://ecowatch.com/2013/dwindling-bee-populations/
See bonus material from “More Than Honey”—enjoy the German! http://youtu.be/00u30q0XqUw

In Closing

Now, as the “great outdoors” doles rain/snow/showers/wind at 40 degrees, I’m ready to slog through the mess in my basement so that I can not feel guilt when Spring–whenever it comes–gives us 60 and I get back to the farm on my bike to visit “my” sheep.

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