This past spring, a friend and I arranged a field trip for our children to visit a local beekeeper. This homeschool dad often conducts tours for kids right in his own backyard where his bees are kept. He put on a wonderful, informative, hands-on presentation for us all. We left knowing a lot more about bees. The kids were inspired to learn even more once we got home. Using a few resources we either already had or found at the library and on the Internet, we were able to pull together a unit study all about bees and honey. I share it with you here in hopes that another family will enjoy this unit as much as we did!
All About Bees
For an introduction to bees, I recommend reading several books: How Do Bees Make Honey? An Usborne Starting Point Science Book by Anna Claybourne, The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole, and The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci. Anne Rockwell and Gail Gibbons have also written good books about bees. Most of these should be available through your local library. These books are all kid-friendly and will give you lots of great information on bees and honey.
Why did people start keeping bees in hives? What did early Americans use honey for? Do some research to find out about the history of beekeeping and the uses of honey. Some good websites to check out for this research are the following:
- Bees are insects. What characteristics make them an insect? Using clay, mold your own bee and be sure to include the qualities that make bees insects.
- Bees dance to communicate. Read about the dances they do and create your own “dance language.”Have fun dancing instead of talking!
- Read the book What Does a Bee See? by D.C. Ipsen, or go to this website to see like a bee yourself: centersti.com/bee/beyehome-1.html.
- Some people are allergic to bee stings. Do you know someone who is? What happens if they get stung by a bee? What can they do when they get stung? Interview a doctor or nurse to learn more about this very serious medical issue.
- There is a definite hierarchy in a beehive. If you have enough children, assign roles and let the kids take turns being the queen. Act out how they get a new queen, what the queen’s role is, what drones do, and so on.
- If your kids are comfortable with the books of the Bible, have a sword drill and look up the following verses that mention honey: Exodus 3:8, Judges 14:8, I Samuel 14:26, Psalm 19:10, Psalm 119:103, Proverbs 25:16, Isaiah 7:15, Ezekiel 3:3, Matthew 3:4, Revelation 10:9.
- Study the “Bee-Attitudes”in Matthew 5:1-12. Talk about the characteristics Jesus focuses on and how we can display those characteristics in our lives. Jesus describes how we can lead blessed lives as His followers. Contrast how Jesus wants us to act with how people act in the world today. Which is right? Which is harder?
- Create a bee character and have your children draw him doing some of the different “bee-attitudes”mentioned in the verses. Consider binding the drawings into a book with the corresponding verses for each drawing neatly copied underneath (copywork). Save this to show off to the grandparents!
- Talk about the saying “Busy as a bee.”Are bees busy? What are they busy doing? Read Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”Bees are busy working hard. Do we work hard even at the smallest task? Even when no one is looking? Does God want us to give our best effort in everything we do? Talk about how we can do everything as unto Him. Keep a record of when you notice that your kids are doing something “as unto the Lord”and are really putting forth their best effort. Have a special dinner and read the list aloud as a family.
Honey can be used instead of sugar in recipes. Below are some fun recipes that kids can make and enjoy. Remember— babies under a year old should not have honey, as this can cause infant botulism!
(Recipes provided courtesy of the National Honey Board. www.honey.com. Check out this site for many more recipes and activity ideas using honey.)
What’s the buzz? “Buzz”is a popular term used in the business world right now. You hear marketing types speaking of generating “buzz”for their products. What does this mean? Discuss this with your kids. What sound does a bee make? What sound do people make when everyone is talking at once? This is what businesses want! They want everyone to talk about their product—to tell their friends about it, to discuss it with their neighbors, to talk about it at work. Make a list of methods that businesses use to generate “buzz”for their products. Learn about different marketing techniques and explore marketing as a career option if your children seem interested in this.
Enjoy these picture books about bees with your younger children:
- Happy Bees by Arthur Yorinks
- Ant and Honey Bee: What a Pair! by Megan McDonald
- Gran’s Bees by Mary Thompson
- “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz,”Went Bumblebee by Colin West
- The Big Honey Hunt by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree by A.A. Milne
Have your child write a poem about bees. Brainstorm together words that describe bees. I found a charming example written by an 11-year-old girl on her blog at www.HomeschoolBlogger.com/willow.
Just for Fun
- My kids really enjoyed a poster that is put out by God’s World News entitled Bees in a Box. Using photos and information on beekeeping, the poster gives a great overview on beekeeping. To order this poster, call 1-800-951-5437.
- If you would like to find someone in your area who produces honey for sale, or maybe even would be willing to give you and your kids a tour, go to www.honeylocator.com.
- Are your kids interested in keeping bees themselves? Write away for the booklet Starting Right with Bees by Storey Publishing Booklets. Contact them at Storey’s Books For Country Living, Storey Communications, Inc., 105 Schoolhouse Rd., Pownal, VT 05261-9988.
- This site has an essay contest on bees as well as information and lessons: ipm.ncsu.edu/4-H/
- For fun printable activities for kids, go to www.ncbeekeepers.org/kidlinks.htm.
- Check out Max Lucado’s Hermie and Friends: Buzby the Misbehaving Bee on DVD.
Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mother of six. Marybeth writes from home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has been homeschooling for nine years. She is the author of For the Write Reason and a speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries. For more information about Marybeth, visit her website at www.marybethwhalen.com or her blog at www.HomeschoolBlogger.com/marybeth.
Honey Hot Cocoa
- cup honey
- cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- cup water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 cups hot milk
In small saucepan, combine honey, cocoa powder and water; mix well. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Set aside until ready to serve. To serve, stir chocolate mixture into hot milk. Makes four servings.
Peanut Butter Play Dough
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 cups smooth peanut butter
- cup honey
In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until ingredients are combined. Turn dough out onto clean work surface; knead like bread dough until play dough is smooth. Store at room temperature in an airtight container. Makes about four cups. Decorate play dough creations with chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, mini marshmallows, wafers, and candy sprinkles!