To bee or not to bee; Pearson College students are choosing the former.
Amongst the backdrop of a brown and yellow November and the rustic scenery of a school embedded in the depths of rural Metchosin, a slightly audible buzzing drones underneath the rustling of fall leaves.
“I think it’s super great, because bees are one of those animals that we don’t often recognize for their work and their importance in our community,” second-year student Emil Toft says of the colony of bees being cultivated on the school’s campus.
Toft helps care for the hive, nestled in the backyard of one of the school buildings. He and a fellow student inherited the job from graduates who have moved on.
They, too, will pass it on one day, but for now it’s their school job, one of the self-directed duties mandated for all of the roughly 160 students on campus. Toft just happened to choose to bee.
“I think it is a great relationship with humans and animals … I definitely enjoy it,” he said. “We definitely want to pollinate campus and that is why we got the bees in the first place.”
Starting off this year with no experience in apiculture – the caring of bees – Toft now handles duties ranging from harvesting the honey to feeding the bees.
He even vapourizes the hive to protect it from varroa mites that destroy the bees.
Under the tute-lage of Capital Regional Beekeeping Association member Derek Wulff, who cares for more than a dozen hives of his own, the student-led hive has been thriving on campus.
“(Students) love to come in and pull at the frames and look at the bees and learn a lot about them. They are very inquisitive here,” said Wulff. “The students love to dive into (it).”
He not only mentors the students during the school year, he cares for the colony while students are away in the summer, taking the colony to help pollinate blueberry and blackberry farms in Metchosin as well as fireweed up in Jordan River.
Wulff said education is a big part of the equation at Pearson and he has been impressed with what the students have pulled off in less than two years.
They’ve built the frames from scratch and plan to make more, to accommodate the potential of a second campus colony that would allow more students to get involved.
Toft, who hails from Denmark and has experienced boarding schools elsewhere, said Pearson’s school-wide policy to promote these self-directed studies has proven an extremely positive forum, and one he’s not experienced before.
“(I like) the way that the students here are first of all encouraged to take leadership and create their own activities … and find something that we really enjoy,” he said. “Beekeeping is a great lesson in leadership and responsibility.”