One of the primary goals of the Champlain Apiary is to educate students through integrative experiential learning. Before the apiary was even established, Professor Jay McKee's marketing students were brainstorming apiary branding and marketing plans and envisioning the jars of honey that would grace the shelves of the student-owned and -operated Lodge. An apiary seemed like a natural fit for a college with a distinctive entrepreneurial spirit.
As soon as the apiary was up and running, Professor Rob William's COR 130 Summer Bridge students gathered around the hives as they pondered the question "What do human and bee communities have in common?" As it turns out, the answer is: quite a lot. In the waning weeks of summer, the apiary had over 100 student visitors, all donning bee suits and experiencing the fascinating world of this ecologically-vital superorganism. Students taking SCI 210: Fundamentals of Ecology, COR 230: Ethics and the Environment, ECN 260: Ecological Economics, and ENP 100: Intro to Environmental Issues spent quality time in the apiary, and interested groups of students and faculty enjoyed some hands-on beekeeping outside the classroom.
In the winter months the bee yard may be quiet, but the conversations continue. Students in ENP 100: Intro to Environmental Issues studied the importance of the ecosystem services bees provide through pollination, while COR 210: Scientific Revolution students explored the question, "Why does science matter?" through global bee decline and colony-collapse disorder. COR 120: Concepts of Community students learned about the decision-making and community-building processes of bees, COR 310: Globalization & Technology students investigated how beekeeping is being used as a tool for community-driven development in the Peruvian Amazon, and Capstone students explored the apiary through the process of its planning, funding, and execution.
As you can see, it's been a busy first year, and we look forward to more inquiry-based learning and quality time with the bees in the future.
"It added a train of thought I had never considered before. I've never thought too much about bees, now I begin to compare human communities to bee ones. Quite interesting stuff."
"I got to see in action what we had been learning in class. I knew what things were when looking at them rather than thinking this is cool, but I don't know what I am looking at."
"It was completely related to the self and community of the class. Bees are an excellent example of these concepts in the real world."
"[The apiary] showed a lot about community and the self- bees are one of the strongest examples of a sustainable community and I got to see it first-hand!"
"It was the perfect last-minute "big-picture" personification of self and community, and how the two relate. Having Dr. Wolf come in ahead of time to talk - in addition to the article and other movie we saw - felt like a natural progression for the course. Include it in every Summer Bridge / first year core, very important issue!"
"Being able to connect, and so closely view a colony of a different species was so incredibly interesting. Seeing how intricate their colony is and how precise it is."
"It not only made me aware of the environmental impact bees have and the importance in having them. Seeing the bees tied into the issue of biodiversity and how one thing effects everything."
"I brought my Foundations of Ecology class to tour the Champlain apiary this fall and it was a wonderful opportunity for my students to see what could be considered a keystone species in a cultivated environment. We were able to discuss the ecology of bees and how critically interdependent we are on them for our food sources and how we are helping them by setting up an apiary on our own campus."
—Christina Erickson - Sustainability Director and Faculty
"The apiary has added such a rich dimension to my Ethics and the Environment and Concepts of Community courses. Students are captivated by the lives and workings of our little pollinators, who biologist, Edward O. Wilson, labels "the heart of the biosphere." A taste of fresh honey at the end of the visit to the colonies never fails to energize them in addition to sealing their commitment to bee advocacy."
—Rowshan Nemazee - Core Faculty