Bee hives blend science, art in RPS 205

School’s out, but two Thurgood Marshall School teachers will suit up over the summer to  check on two bee hives that belong to the school.

The hives were established as part of an arts integration project, funded by a four-year, $1.2 million grant awarded to the Rockford Public Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Marshall arts teacher Lisa Normoyle and science teacher Debra Maklezow worked together to design the project and tie art and science together in a unique way.

Students in the Bee Club surprised themselves, Normoyle said. Many of them hadn’t taken art in middle school and were sure they had no artistic talent.

“This assumption quickly turned out to be false,” Normoyle said, “as they helped in all phases of the arts implementation: designing our t-shirts, designing and painting the murals on our two hives and creating mosaic stepping stones for the garden.”

The hives also taught the students about fragile ecosystems and the threat posed by a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD). Maklezow led a problem-based learning unit in which students had to research CCD and its causes, and figure out a possible solution. “Honey bees and other native pollinators are dying in exponential numbers,” Maklezow said. And what hurts a pollinator hurts our agriculture and food sources.

It wasn’t all ecological crisis and catastrophe. Bee Club members had their share of fun, making baked goods to sell at Taste of Marshall and promoting the club inside and outside the school. They proved their dedication one cold, nasty Saturday in May when about 25 current and former students, friends and parents planted a pollinator garden near the hives. When they were done planting, Normoyle said, people could suit up and get a closer look at the hives.

Only in  education would anyone call that a reward.

Marshall is looking for donations to buy an extractor for harvesting honey from the hives. If you are interested in donating, contact Mary Kaull, communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools, at mary.kaull@rps205.com.

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