On November 12, I visited Grand Blanc City School at Perry Center, located
at the corner of Perry Rd. and Bush St. Teacher, Vickie Weiss, had invited me to speak to
her class about the orchard mason bee, its life cycle, conservation, and how the bees
contribute to natural science. Vickie said she hoped her students, who were involved in an
intensive five-part geology session, would see if they could find a connection between the
bees, being one of nature’s most important natural and native pollinators, and geology.
When I arrived, I found Vickie’s students broken into small groups discussing and
writing about an outing, they had been on earlier that day. Vickie asked the students to
move to a different classroom; her students swiftly and quietly walked across the hall,
began moving furniture around like a well-rehearsed routine, and quickly took their
places, some on the floor, some on couches; all gave me their full attention.
Vickie gave a brief introduction, told them why I was present, and asked the group for
a show of hands of those who had ever visited, J.J. Cardinal’s. I was pleased to see so
many familiar faces and a good show of hands.
It did not take long for someone in
the class to identify the orchard mason bees' contributions to ecology and geology. Vickie
purchased a starter set of bees for the students to observe on school grounds. The kit
included: two six-inch tubes each containing 10 healthy orchard mason bee larval cocoons,
a wooden mason bee block containing 20 paper-lined cardboard nesting tubes, and an
informative book The Orchard Mason Bee for any student who wished to learn more
than what I had to share during this one-hour session. After the program, Vickie had the
students set up displays prepared for a presentation the following evening with parents
and guests at the school. Unbeknownst for the students, Vickie was giving them an
opportunity to go through their material without feeling the pressure of parents and
guests. I walked the room and briefly chatted with most of the students about the various
national parks, state parks and other areas of interest they researched. The students
covered such topics as animals, plants, and other attractions.
Before I left, the students put on
their coats; we walked outdoors, single file, to find the perfect place to install their
new orchard mason bee home. They chose a sunny east side of the greenhouse that is
attached to the Perry Center because, as they had learned that day, the bees like warm
sunny areas. The students also walk by this area daily when going outdoors for breaks so
they will be able to observe the bee home activity when the bees emerge early next spring.
I did not have enough time to see every student’s display on that first visit, so I
attended the next evening’s event and was pleased with what I saw. I was impressed with
their creativity and boundless energy as the students went through their presentation as
people stopped to view their creations.
Vickie Weiss is an exceedingly special
teacher. Her very presence and character unpretentiously generates an ambitious desire to
learn in the children who part of her class; I felt fortunate as well to have experienced
this enlightening bit of interactive education.