Students buzzing about bees

Deborah Grigsby
A few dead honey bees still cling to an old honeycomb giving 2nd-graders at Singing Hills Elementary not only a thrill, but a look at live inside the hive. Local beekeeper Joan Madajski brought the hive, as well as few of her beekeeping stories, to the school for a special Earth Day presentation.
Deborah Grigsby
Curious second-graders at Singing Hills Elementary got a chance to closely examine a honeycomb brought by local apiarist Joan Madajski. Here, Tyler Heap puts the paper-like structure to the sniff test as Miranda Heater, left, Kylie Gardner and Damen Hendrickson look on. Photo by Deborah Grigsby
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ELIZABETH-- Students at Singing Hills Elementary got a really sweet deal April 23 as they welcomed local beekeeper Joan Madajski to the classroom for a little talk about bees.

No, not the birds and the bees.

Just the bees.

Madajski, a 15-year apiarist, was invited to share her interest in bees and beekeeping as part of a special project arranged by Amy Clark O’Harold, a special education paraprofessional at Singing Hills in Elizabeth.

“We recently read a story in class about bees,” said O’Harold. “And since Sunday was Earth Day, we thought it would be a nice tie-in to bring Joan out to talk about bees and how important they are to the earth.”

Interesting, interactive and at times, rather sticky, Madajski’s 45-minute presentation took the group of more than 70 secon-graders through basic bee identification, bee life cycle and then gave them the opportunity to peer at live honey bees tightly secured inside a clear plastic container, examine a real honeycomb and ask lots of questions.

“Probably everybody here has seen a honeybee at one time or another,” said Madajski. “But really, there are more than 20,000 different kinds of bees in the world — that’s about one bee for every two people in Elbert County.”

Much to the students’ delight, Madajski even donned a beekeeper’s protective suit and demonstrated a few tools of the trade, including the trademark bee smoker, a device used to generate smoke to calm the bees while they are being moved or manipulated.

“This has actually been kinda nice,” said O’Harold of the presentation. “It’s something fun, and really something that not every child out there gets to experience.”

For Madajski, the best part was the opportunity to share her unique knowledge with others, particularly the youngsters.

For the youngsters, the best part seemed to be the opportunity to sample a 3-pound jar of farm-fresh honey.

Madajski and her husband gained an interest in beekeeping after they moved to Elbert County, some 20 years ago.

“When we started gardening out there, we noticed some very low pollination rates,” explained Madajski, who is also a master gardener. “We started watching things closely and we noticed that we didn’t have very many pollinators around, and the lack of bees in the area really concerned me, so we looked into beehives.”

For Madajski and Kiowa Creek Been Ranches, bees are more than just another flying insect to swat. They’re a critical part of a much bigger environmental picture.

“Bees are so tiny, but they are so important to us and the earth,” she said. “Children should know that the earth comes first, if they don’t put the earth first, anything else they do on it just won’t matter.”