23rd January 2018

Investigating Bees at Guardian Underwood

Native bees at Jacaranda Underwood

It’s been a hive of activity at Guardian Childcare & Education Underwood of late! The centre recently acquired a bee hive complete with native Australian bees, which has created quite the buzz at this early learning centre in Brisbane.

So how did the idea of having bees come about?

Guardian Underwood Centre Manager, Julie Goodall says, “We set ourselves the goal of improving our sustainability practices. One idea raised by staff was incorporating native bees into our outdoor learning environment. However, it wasn’t until our Educational Leader and Early Childhood Teacher attended the Reggio Emilia Conference in July 2017 did the idea fully form.”

“Since the conference, the community at Jacaranda have been engaged in a centre-wide project exploring the question ‘How do children in an urban environment develop an ecological identity?’ It wasn’t long after a forum to provide feedback and ask questions about the bees did they arrive with much excitement and anticipation.”

Native bees at Jacaranda Underwood

Choosing native bees

There are ten major groups of Australian native bees, however the one bee native to Queensland is the Tetragonula Carbonaria. This bee is stingless and their primary function is to create honey for their hive and to pollinate the flowers in their surrounding area. At only three to five millimetres long and entirely black they look very different to the image we all associate with bees.

Bee exploration and discussions

According to the Guardian Curriculum, “We believe that children are intuitive and skilful researchers.”

The kindergarten class began their exploration by gathering to share and record what they already knew about bees. Using the ‘think-pair-share’ strategy the children shared their ideas and questions with the class.

“They help plants grow,” said Kareem linking knowledge he’d learnt from the class’ investigation into healthy plant and vegetable growth.

The children also made connections to personal experiences, “I’ve had a bee on my leg,” said Alyssa. “You know they sting people,” Xavier told her.

The children also identified two initial questions to explore, ‘How is honey made?’ and ‘Are all bees small like ours?’ There have since been many questions about the different jobs the bees perform, why they like flowers, the bees’ anatomy, their life cycle, how they fly, why they make honey, and how they build their hives.

Native bees at Jacaranda Underwood

Julie says, “Having our own bees to observe, rather than relying on videos and photographs has meant we can observe the bees for extended periods of time, in their natural environment without fear of stinging. Every day we engage in shared research whereby an educator will sit with a small group of children and they share observations, wonder aloud, and reinforce appropriate behaviour around the hive.”

These observations have led the children to wonder why the bees don’t appear to like or land on all the flowers.

“Our next step will be to form a hypothesis about why this may be,” Julie says.

“Then, we’ll conduct research on native flower species, bring some of these into the centre and then make further observations. This process provides the children with opportunities to develop scientific inquiry skills, and discuss numeracy concepts such as number (recording how many times they notice a bee land on specific flower species by using tally marks), and data (as they graph their findings).”

Unfortunately, tasting the honey won’t be possible for at least six months, however as producing honey for human consumption is not the bees primary function it has allowed us to reinforce an important saying ‘Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.’

We are looking forward to seeing the honey that’s produced by the bees as well as hearing the learning outcomes from the various projects that have come from having bees at the centre.

Learn more about Guardian Childcare & Education Underwood

To find out more about this early learning centre in Brisbane and to book yourself in for a tour, head here. We look forward to welcoming you to our centre!