Third grade students campaign for honey bee health

Posted: January 14, 2015

Four third graders researched the important role of honey bees in agriculture and mounted a local public awareness and fundraising campaign to support bee health.
The 3rd Grade Thinking and Doing Team, from left to right: Briana Truitt, Kaleb Brown, Ian Sykes, Sunny Hawes

The 3rd Grade Thinking and Doing Team, from left to right: Briana Truitt, Kaleb Brown, Ian Sykes, Sunny Hawes

Led by teacher Amanda Markos at the Wicomico County Maryland Public Schools’ Thinking and Doing program in 2014, students were inspired to study bee health while examining climate change and its potential impacts on agriculture and food supply. Honey bees and other pollinator populations, which are responsible for 1 in every 3 bites of food we eat, are declining globally. Ms. Markos said, “My students were horrified to discover the severity of the problem and the number of foods that depend on honey bees for pollination. They were particularly alarmed to find that ice cream would be threatened if bees die off, due to cows eating alfalfa, which depends on bees for seed production.”

Collaboratively, students compiled evidence of bee health problems and disseminated their findings and suggestions for how to better manage honey bee health to stakeholders, including local residents and businesses. In addition, students raised funds (some of which came from their own savings) to donate to the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State.

The Thinking and Doing Program (TAD) in Wicomico County, MD is a special program for academically talented children. Ms. Markos reported, “Although these children are only 8 years old, they were capable of grasping many of the key concepts surrounding pollinator health.”  

Together, students learned that bees and other insects pollinate the majority of crop species that are grown world-wide. Thus, ongoing, global honey bee colony losses threaten food supply and the availability of diverse crops that humans need to have healthy, balanced diets. Students also cited the economic value of other hive products including wax in the making of “candles, furniture polishes and things used in medicines for gum diseases and burns.” Students identified several factors contributing to ongoing losses of honey bee colonies including spread of viral diseases, use of pesticides, stressful management practices (e.g. movement of colonies to pollinate crops across the US) and global changes in climate. Finally, students created a list of recommendations for how to support pollinator health including reducing backyard herbicide and pesticide use and creating pollinator friendly environments by planting flowers and providing fresh water sources.

To share their findings and recommendations with the public, the TAD Bee Team created an educational flyer to hand out at local businesses that sold plants that may have been treated with neonicotinoids (a type of pesticide) and created a donation box to raise funds. As part of their outreach campaign, they also encouraged members of the public to, “Write to senators and representatives in Congress and ask them to give funding for honey bee research!”

Dr. Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollinator Research said, “I am so impressed with what these students have done - if only more people were as motivated and engaged as they are!” The Center for Pollinator Research is delighted to accept the TAD Bee Team’s donation. It will be used to support outreach activities for the Center, so it will continue the good work that the TAD students have started.  

For more information, please contact or visit the Center for Pollinator Research