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self portrait - circa 1996


Active Education

Dear Friends:

City School groupOn 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.

city-school-g.jpg (10138 bytes)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.

city-school-d.jpg (8885 bytes)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.

city-school-k.jpg (6379 bytes)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.
Louise Dawson

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J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store ®
12830 S. Saginaw Street, Grand Blanc, Michigan   810-695-8733
Posted 11/13/02 - revised 01/16/03  © J.J. Cardinal's 2002
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