Hooray! We’re glad you’re thinking about installing a classroom observation hive and inspiring students to learn about honey bees and other pollinators.
Below are suggested steps for planning and installation, advice from teachers who have hives, and template documents you may use. If you need more 1:1 coaching than you find here, please Contact Us as we often provide consulting services for a small fee to support our outreach efforts.
Suggested order of steps in setting up a hive:
- Be clear on why you want one and what its role would be in your classroom. Why are bees important to your students and class? Will it be purely observational, part of a unit, integrated informally, etc.? (See the advice from teachers in the next section for this.)
- READ THE ENTIRE OBSERVATION HIVE CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE MANUAL (click here to go to the DIY tab). Learn honey bee basics. Know what you are proposing.
- Put together an initial plan. This includes the hive’s location, maintenance plan, safety protocols, and budget. (See the advice from teachers in the next section for this.)
- Bring your initial plan to anyone you will need to rely on and ask for help planning. Your department chair and other admin, facilities managers, nurse, etc. Save the people who may say no for last so you can go to them with the most robust plan and support network possible. You want to make it clear you know what you are doing and care about their input. (See the advice from teachers in the next section for this.)
- Finalize your plan. Get final permission from all the powers you need to.
- Notify students and parents if you have not done so. (If you are setting up over the summer, just do this as soon as you can. See the advice from teachers in the next section for this.)
- Purchase materials for the hive. Get other materials ready (signage, Epipen, etc.). Build the hive, install the bees, install the hive in your classroom. Late summer is the easiest time to do this, but making it a springtime classroom event is great too.
- Enjoy! And please Contact Us to let us know our website was helpful and if you would like to be added to our Locations map!
Advice and example documents from teachers who have been through the process:
- Direct people to this site. Use it to show people what an observation hive looks like and how our design allows for modular units, making maintenance easier and safer. It is unique and patented, so even veteran beekeepers will not be familiar with it.
- Demonstrate precedent. Again, directing people to this site helps. Find other (especially local!) schools with either observation hives or full, traditional hives and contact them for references.
- Involve everyone in the most courteous, professional, and proactive way possible. Make it clear that you understand the risks of honey bees in a classroom and that you are being thorough in eliminating these risks. Don’t be dismissive or slipshod in your efforts to understand the hive’s design or bees. We strongly suggest that during the planning phase you include the beekeeping community (local beekeepers and/or beekeeping association can help you learn about traditional hives and bees), school nurses, maintenance/facilities staff, department chair, principal/dean, superintendent, parents, and students. This sounds like a lot, and it is, especially when you also need to coordinate funding, hive assembly, sourcing the bees, and hive maintenance volunteers! However, it is important to make sure the administration, teaching staff, and community feel like their concerns are heard and properly addressed.
- Thank people for voicing their concerns and desire to make the hive a safe and positive experience for students. Then use the concerns as talking points to emphasize educational benefits and to make sure people are correctly informed about risk levels and the hive’s design. Many people will need to be talked down from imaging worst case scenarios. Many also just don’t understand the hive’s design well, or do not know the difference between wasp and bee behavior. Root out fears and gaps in understanding and address them with facts and solutions in a positive, not dismissive way. (“Oh wow, yeah, Mr. Jones, those bugs that stung your niece last summer do sound aggressive. That must have been a scary experience. The exposed nest and territorial behavior is common to wasps, which unlike bees…etc, etc.”) Brainstorm concerns ahead of time and have prepared information and solutions (explore our website and ask friends for help brainstorming).
- Be able to describe the educational benefits of the hive. Have specific curriculum units in mind. Also plan to promote an open and ongoing invitation for all to learn from the hive (e.g. beekeeping club, “Meet the Queen”, honey tasting, chapstick making, etc.) so that parents, students, staff, and community can feel that they have a voice and a relationship with the hive in the school.
- Prepare a well-crafted budget for the project, explaining how it will be funded. Coordinate as many monetary and in-kind donations of supplies and labor as possible. Local beekeeping associations, gardening clubs, and home/garden stores might be interested in supporting the project. Also consider grant writing. Range of possible cost (estimates, updated 9/1/17): Google Sheets
- Draft a hive safety and integration plan including the following points: (Example: PDF and Word)
- An annual letter home to all families with students attending the school. If possible, also have a plan for individually notifying parents of students with known bee allergies prior to mailing the letter. Explain the presence of the hive, as well as its design, safety features, and educational benefits. Example: PDF, Template for new hive: Word, Template for returning hive: Word
- Posted notices about the hive’s presence in the school’s main office, outside the room, and near the exit to the hive outdoors if at ground level. Examples: PDF, Template for main office: Word, Template for room: Word
- Posted hive rules and plans to explain to students those rules and how to respond to bee behavior concerning them. Example: PDF and Word
- Epipens readily available for bee allergic students in the nurse’s office and classroom with hive (and the child’s backpack if needed).
- EpiPen training for all staff and students in the room with the hive. All staff and students in the building if possible (not a bad idea given the more likely event of a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.)
- Site-specific safety modifications, in addition to the hive’s modular safety design. Examples: Hive securely attached to the building or a structure with a solid immovable/heavy base, in case of accidental heavy touching of the hive. Screens on building windows near the hive so that if open, bees will not fly in. Fans available to cool hot hives and limit “bee bearding”.
- Plans to conduct installation/removal/maintenance safely: in the evening, under the supervision of trained beekeepers, wearing appropriate beekeeping gear, in a closed room (and maybe a mosquito net over the hive as a secondary precaution), and extreme care taken to only open frame boxes outdoors, never inside. Use our observation hive construction and maintenance manual as a guide.