Since last March, Science Teacher Mark Teutsch and a handful of students have been busy establishing a new co-curricular called “Growing Green.” Growing Green provides the opportunity to spend their time after school in activities ranging from beekeeping to mushroom cultivation.
Lorraine Peoples ’21, a member of Growing Green, was originally planning on doing community service in the fall, but when she heard of this new opportunity she felt compelled to join.
“I was super excited to see the option of growing plants and learning about beekeeping,” Peoples said.
Peoples and several other students have been spending their afternoons climbing to the roof of the Koch Center, where 80,000 bees live in 4 different hive stacks.
The hives contain different breeds of bees as well; two hives accommodate Italian Carniolan honey bees while the other two house Siberian honey bees.
Before handling or approaching bees, all participants must first put on a protective white bee suit, resembling an astronaut spacesuit.
Once on the roof, Mr. Teutsch will light a smoker, a small contraption that emits smoke into the beehives and makes the bees more docile so that it is easier for the students to harvest the honey.
After collecting the honey, the students are able to take some home to enjoy later on.
When not at the Koch center, the students report to the greenhouse. Currently, the students are cultivating arugula, spinach, beets, peas, saffron, and even reishi mushrooms.
Reishi mushrooms have been used for centuries to boost human immune systems. Recent research has shown that these properties can be extended to bees as well.
Mr. Teutsch said, “The microbiome of the honeybees is more robust in the presence of exposure [to reishi mushrooms] … that’s an important part of the greenhouse complement.” Through Growing Green, students hope to introduce these mushrooms into the honeybees’ environment so that the bees can reap the antiviral benefits of reishi mushrooms.
Cultivating different plants in the greenhouse and tending to the honeybees on the roof of the Koch is a unique way for students to learn outside the classroom.
After her first visit to the honeybees on the roof of the Koch, Claire Cummings ’21 said: “I’m so happy to have this transformative experience right here in our backyard.”
The Growing Green team is not the only one that has been reaping the benefits of having bees in such close quarters.
Art Teacher Mercedes Taylor has also brought her Topics Tutorial class to the roof in order to observe the artistic nature of the bees.
“It was fascinating to watch the natural movement of the bees. It definitely inspired some of the artwork that I am working on right now,” John Chung ’20 said.
Recently, Mr. Teutsch also hosted a “Honeybee Biology” information session on Sunday night.
He invited Apiarist Dan and Bonita Conlon, the owners of Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield, Mass. Through this lecture, students learned the different ways that apiarists manage the health of their bees.
Mr. Teutsch said, “Education is a start, and it’s interesting because learning provides inspiration… when we start to learn something we get interested and we get curious and we want to learn more, we want more exposure… whether we are listening to a local expert, or reading [on the subject].”
Events like the information session allow Deerfield students to get involved with and learn more about beekeeping, even if they are not venturing up to the roof of the Koch.