MARIETTA — Students at Devereux Georgia in Kennesaw are buzzing after being given their own observational honeybee hive with about 8,000 bees and one queen.
Tami Enright is a master beekeeper and the executive director of The Bee Cause Project, a Charleston, South Carolina-based nonprofit that aims to spread awareness of the importance of honeybees by installing observational beehives in schools.
Enright said Devereux’s beehive is the 51st observational beehive her organization has installed since the nonprofit began about three years ago. The organization’s goal is to install 1,000 hives, she said.
They have placed beehives in several states throughout the Southeast and have about 500 requests from across the country and beyond, including in the Bahamas and Bali.
“We’re hoping to help reconnect or to connect this generation to nature and instill some sort of appreciation for the role that honeybees — and pollinators in general — play in the bigger picture,” Enright said. “They’re responsible for one in three bites of our food supply, and they’re as important as sunlight, soil and water for our food.”
Enright said the beehives provide students with teachable moments, from science lessons on how pollen is spread to sociology lessons on how an interdependent community operates. Enright said The Bee Cause Project provides beehives at no cost to the schools and even provides curricula and lesson plans to go hand-in-hand with the beehives.
The goal, Enright said, is “to provide a cool teaching tool for teachers to use as a foundation for all sorts of discussions around how to be a good steward (and) to get kids to slow down to think about how this one little insect can have such a great impact in so many areas.”
Devereux Principal Sherry McKenzie said she is excited to see the beehive put to use in instruction.
“Kids, they see bees all the time. So connecting science to what they see out in the real world is important,” McKenzie said. “People don’t necessarily know about the pollination that they do and how it benefits them as individuals. … I really see the curriculum reaching all grades and ages.”
Enright said the organization is funded through grants and donations from individuals and businesses. According to The Bee Cause Project’s website, a $2,000 donation will pay for an observational beehive at a school.
Enright also said some schools participate in the organization’s Pay It Forward program by selling Bee Cause Honey to help raise money for the ongoing care of the school’s hive and to pay for a hive to be installed at another school.
Enright said it’s important for people to learn about bees because they are dying in large numbers, noting about 30 percent of the world’s colonies have died in the last 10 years.
“There is something called colony disorder, and it really is the perfect storm for the honeybee,” Enright said. “They are the canary in the coal mine (and) they are telling us what we’re doing to our environment from a pollutant perspective is going to have long term consequences.”
Enright said The Bee Cause Project is partnering with local beekeepers Brian and Kim Higgins of Kennesaw-based Hometown Honey to provide regular maintenance and informational sessions at Devereux.
Enright said there will be an observation journal where students can write their observations and questions for the Higginses to answer when they visit the school.
Brian Higgins said Hometown Honey has nine farms of bees and he has worked with elementary schools in the past, but had to stop after bees started dying in large numbers.
“We had problems with everybody spraying the pesticides,” Brian Higgins said. “What happens is … they spray the weeds during the day and the bees go to the flower and the poison and ends up dying or disoriented and can’t make their way back to the hive.”
Devereux Executive Director Gwendolyn Skinner said Devereux is a licensed residential treatment facility for children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 21.
“It is a psychiatric treatment facility, so there has to be a determination made that they are in need of this level of care because it is your most intensive level of care for children,” Skinner said.
According to Nedra Wooten, director of development, Devereux Georgia was established in 1973 at the request of then-Gov. Jimmy Carter. The facility has an operating budget of about $20 million and serves about 130 children on the campus.
Skinner said Devereux, which is private and not-for-profit, has been working to get the beehive on campus for about six months and she expects it to provide a big benefit to the students because it is both an educational and treatment experience for them.
“We strive to provide a therapeutic environment to children and that means it has to be interesting, it has to be conducive to treatment (and) conducive to learning because we operate as a fully-accredited school,” Skinner said. “So, this is one of our efforts.”