Home Education and Careers Mount Aviat Academy students get a lesson on importance of bees: Photo...

Mount Aviat Academy students get a lesson on importance of bees: Photo gallery

Monica Shire tells students about the parts of a bee. She is a nature-based educator and therapist. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

CHILDS, Md. — Since Mount Aviat Academy acquired its own beehive recently, it only made sense to teach a lesson about the insects and the crucial role they play in our ecosystem. In late May, the kindergarten through third grades got to hang out with the hive and a nature-based educator.

Monica Shire, who lives near Mount Aviat, was at the school with all the props she would need to get the children excited about bees. A stuffed bee allowed her to explain its different body parts and how it uses its probiscus to suck up pollen and spit it into a honeycomb.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, bees “are part of the biodiversity on which we all depend for our survival.” They help provide foods such as honey and jelly, along with products such as beeswax.

Shire said bees help spread pollen, which allows many food products to reproduce.

“Einstein said that without bees, people would die in four years,” Shire told the first-graders at Mount Aviat.

She showed the students frames that sit inside beehives and asked what the bees do. The answer, of course, is make honey.

“Are we going to try it?” one student asked.

“You’re going to try it,” said Shire, wearing a set of bee antennae on her head. “Mmm, so good.”

She passed around a honeycomb. Each student was able to poke a finger into it and try the honey. While this was going on, one student from each grade was able to climb into a kid-sized beekeeper suit and take a turn as a honey spinner and smoker. The smoke makes the bees sleepy, Shire explained, while the spinner sends the honey on the frames to the bottom of the hive. Beekeepers wear white, she added, because no predators of the insects are white in color.

Shire explained the physiology of the bees. They have five eyes, with three eyes on top that tell them where to go, “like Google Maps,” she said.

“The girls do almost all the work,” Shire said.

“That’s not nice,” one female student replied.

Shire, who graduated from Holy Angels School and Saint Mark’s High School, also does nature-based therapy for children ages 3-18.

“Nature has proven to lower anxiety, increase endorphins and lower blood pressure in kids — and adults,” she said in an interview.

A longtime teacher, she also has trainings for educators. She and her husband have a farm near Mount Aviat that includes 19 beehives. They do tours and retreats.

“I believe when we learn about nature, we learn about ourselves. We are part of nature,” Shire said. “It’s so rewarding teaching the kids how to be stewards of the earth and how to have a symbiotic relationship with the bees because we need them, and they need us. We actually need them more than they need us.”

All photos by Mike Lang.