HEDGESVILLE — As Berkeley County Schools CTE Director Ken Pack and Hedgesville High AG teacher Chris VanDyne looked out the workshop classroom window Thursday morning, four students were bees busy, finishing tasks involved in everything from gardening to building a shed.
“Chris VanDyne’s shop right now, here at Hedgesville High School, we have students planting seeds for the upper tunnel,” Pack said. “We have students putting a roof on a shed they’re building.”
VanDyne added, “I have students making seeds for the high tunnel. I have students in the upper tunnel, who make vegetables there. I have students in the greenhouse, transplanting and cutting. I have some up there finishing a roof on the building that is for the bees. I have students everywhere, who do everything.
Some bees are added to the duties of these busy bees, as the Hedgesville program recently added 12 bee colonies to projects recently undertaken by Introduction to Agriculture students.
VanDyne spent time before the arrival of bees teaching the importance of bees and lessons about their care and life. The introductory class and several others helped build 12 hive bodies, 14 supers and prepare the materials needed for a bee apiary. Pack helped freshmen with hives.
“The excitement was more than I thought,” laughed VanDyne. “That day (they arrived) I didn’t have enough bee costumes for everyone who wanted to participate.”
Much like caring for plants in gardens, students will care for bees and eventually cultivate the honey produced. Students work on a wildflower space to help bees in their production, students learn about the importance of pollinators to the environment.
“It’s another learning opportunity for the students,” Pack said. “Students in this class, every day, have a new perspective of learning, to gain knowledge.”
VanDyne added with a laugh, “No two days are the same here.”
The teacher emphasized the importance of the hands-on learning found in her classroom, the memories students make and the lessons learned.
“For me, I’ve always gone that route with my way of teaching,” VanDyne said. “They seem to hold back more; they become more involved. They just, overall, look a lot better. When they come back to me years after graduation, they remember this stuff.
He added that in fields such as agriculture this is constantly changing, with bees being the perfect example of one more tool in the toolbox as students and teachers keep up to date with trends and work in industry.
“Farming changes every day and every year, and we have to be able to adapt to teach kids about new technologies,” VanDyne said. “A lot of these things I learn while they learn, or I learn the week before I teach them. It’s amazing how things change. I have to stay up to date to keep them up to date to make sure that they have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.
Pack praised VanDyne and his students for their willingness to tackle the project, a project that is a long time coming as the duo discussed the potential of bees some time ago.