10 June 2019

Children at Heron Hill Primary School in Kendal in Cumbria are delighted to be winners of a 'Year of Green Action' award from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 

The award is part of Bees Needs Week an annual event coordinated by DEFRA to help raise awareness of bees and other pollinators. It is part of the National Pollinator Strategy. 

Jacqui Cottam, Chair of Governors at the school, along with teacher, Karen Harper, set up their 6 colony apiary 3 years ago,  but the schools passion for all pollinators and solitary bees goes back a long way. 

Peter Hicks wearing bee shirt made for him by his wife and daughter

"When Mr Peter Hicks, our Headteacher, joined the school almost 9 years ago, his vision was to really use our 6.5 acres not just to provide a space for children to learn, play and explore but, also, to create a forage and habitat rich environment for solitary bees and pollinators" says Jacqui. 

The judges from DEFRA were impressed by the variety of projects the school has launched, not only providing year round forage for bees, but establishing habitats and forage for a variety of pollinators and insect and, most importantly, educating the children about the vital place bees and all pollinators have in our world eco-systems. They were wowed by the enthusiasm of the children and took into account these projects: 

  • Our apiary and the colonies of bees, managed by the children
  • Building SO many bug hotels, including our new 'pollinator palaces!' 
  • Establishing 'no mow' areas in school, where pollinators can forage
  • Our 'big dig' where the children & beekeepers have sown a new wildflower patch
  • Our pesticide free gardens & planting literally thousands of native trees... 
  • Our work on the canal path to help with establishing a wildflower 'corridor' in Kendal

Jacqui says: "8 years ago, around 2,000 native trees were planted around our perimeter, and two separate woodland areas were created. Our wide, native hedges provide forage and shelter for a variety of insects, birds and pollinators and our 'no mow' areas allow wild flowers to flourish. Children across the school have created pollinator hotels around the school grounds and all year groups participate in tending our school garden, with the children in Mrs Hudson's gardening club co-ordinating and planning the works."

Local beekeeper, Alan Tett, helped the children to transform old hives into colourful solitary bee hotels with plants on the top 

"This year, the ever-supportive Kendal and South Westmoreland Beekeepers helped our 'Bee Team' children dig over and sow a wildflower pollinator mini meadow, which is doing incredibly well." 

Teacher, Karen Harper says "It was a fantastic afternoon, everyone worked so well together, we achieved so much. It was super to see the children working alongside our local beekeepers. Wages were paid in the form of tea and cake! Alan Tett is the children's 'Beekeeping buddy' who comes every week to help one of our bee teams. With the children he worked to transform and recycle several old brood boxes into 'pollinator palaces' complete with bee friendly planting on top. The children have also benefitted from pollination science sessions from Dr Julia Piggot , Kendal and South Westmoreland Beekeeper Association's Education Officer."

To celebrate World Bee Day the whole school, teachers,  governors and parents dressed up as bees to help raise awareness about bees and pollinators, culminating in the creation of a human bee next to the apiary. Money was raised to support the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. 

"Our children are so lucky to be 'the younger generation' of such a forward thinking and supportive local association" agrees Karen & Jacqui. "Having the younger and older working together has such far reaching benefits for both parties!"
Karen and Jacqui now run 3 successful and oversubscribed 'Bee Teams' a week in school.  Karen explains, "We visit all the year groups to 'teach bees'  and are supporting several young people doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards, learning apiculture as their 'new skill. We have had all school 'bee themed days & activities' and this year, our children are hosting 'beekeeping visits' from local community groups such as the WI, where they will show the adults around their hives. " 
"Our beekeeping children are just amazing!" says Jacqui, "they are so keen to spread the word to other children, one of our Bee Team children even devised her own teaching session with activities to take to another school to help their children understand the importance of bees! We are so incredibly, but wonderfully busy with bees we have another group of children taking the BBKA Junior Certificate this week and we are hoping to take a small group of our Bee Team to London to receive our award."
The impact of having bees in schools is so far reaching explain Karen & Jacqui, "Children, regardless of age, gender or ability can all participate on a level playing field. Trusting children and giving them the responsibility to nurture and care for their colonies fosters respect, resilience and confidence, all such important life skills for the future."
You can follow the Heron Hill Bee Team adventures on their twitter feed: @beekeepingkids or see their school 'Bee Blog' www.heronhill.cumbria.sch.uk/bee-blog
Kind regards

Jacqui & Karen