Showing bees

Doug Miller, an enthusiastic beekeeper and a former Henkle Middle School principal and White Salmon Valley School District teacher, shows off a frame with a brood chamber, where eggs and larvae develop. Miller’s honey bees will serve as the centerpiece of science learning units at two local schools.

Two observational hives were recently installed at Henkle Middle School and Wallace and Priscilla Steven-son Intermediate School as part of an ongoing project between the White Salmon Valley School District and the White Salmon Valley Education Foundation.

School officials installed one hive in Michael Han-nigan’s eighth-grade classroom and another in Tarnna Simper’s classroom, where she teaches fifth grade.

“I’m so excited,” Simpers said as the hives were being put in place. She said she worked on ways to implement the hives into her learning units during the summer. She noted that she’ll be able to teach the ways bees provide for the ecosystem as well as introduce math concepts through the hives.

The White Salmon Valley Education Foundation put forth over $1,000 to purchase the supplies for this project, including the two observational hives. The hives hold four frames of bees, which add up to around 6,000 bees to a hive.

Former principal of Henkle Middle School Doug Mill-er donated the bees from his personal collection of bee colonies. Miller says this project was a plan of his that is finally coming to fruition after two years of planning.

Miller, who worked as a commercial beekeeper for around five years in the 1980s, said he felt the School District was not taking advantage of the nature around the White Salmon area. He said that bringing hives into the classroom would be beneficial for the students. He cited his years teaching in Lyle as an example of how bees could be implemented into education.

“It was a booming success,” Miller said of his prior experience using live honeybees as a centerpiece for a learning unit. He said some students learn better when the education is hands-on and displays tangible benefits.

Miller said there are plans in place to plant honeybee-friendly plants near where the hives are located.

The maintenance team, which included Mike Clark and Jesse Bryan, welded metal and put in place the means for the bees to fly outside and collect honey without them escaping into the classroom.

However, the bees are not expected to last the winter. Miller noted that around 40% of bee colonies died last winter in the United States. He said mite infestations and numerous pesticides make living conditions harsh for the flying insects. He plans to cover the hives in Styrofoam to keep the inside of the hives warm. Miller said the hives’ optimal temperature runs at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

As for now, school officials are running an experiment to see how the hives fit into the curriculum and how the students react. Miller said with some success, he plans to apply for another grant in the spring to purchase hives for each school in the district.

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