2019 Fall Farm Sprouts – Week #3 Wednesday AM

It was all about the bees this week… and the apples, too! We explored how pollinators, including bees, are so crucial to the health of our food system. In the article, “Beyond Honey Bees,” MSU’s Kelsey K. Graham shares:

“One in every three bites of food we eat is made possible by bees. They pollinate almonds, apples, blueberries, squash, tomatoes and many other popular crops. They also pollinate alfalfa, which we feed to farm animals, so they support the meat component of our diet too. We need bees for food security and to maintain healthy ecosystems. Bees pollinate flowering trees and wildflowers, which in turn provide food and homes for other animals and improve water, air and soil quality” (2018).

We think bees are truly amazing and we strive to share this “bee wonder” with Farm Sprouts!

Just last week, we assessed Farm Sprouts’ understanding and feelings on bees, discovering just as we imagined that they are a topic of great interest and excitement, yet previous experiences or shared fears have created considerable concern about being stung. These fears, to some extent, overshadow the beauty and benefits of bees and the work that they do. Some notable “bee wonder” questions were asked and observations shared, however, and we will be sure to investigate these investigative driving questions in the weeks to come. Farm Sprouts’ “bee wonder” questions included, “Why do bees sting people?,” “What do you do when a bee gets in your house?” and “How does honey go from the hive to the cupboard in your house?”

Through our investigations to seek answers to our essential question of the fall season, “How do plants and animals prepare for winter?,” we explore supporting driving questions, such as those Farm Sprouts asked about bees. As a result, we’ll be naturally working towards meeting the Next Generation Science Standards for Kindergarten, including those focused on plant and animals needs. Hooray for farm and nature-based education! Ms. Brooke has written about this project-based approach to learning, focusing on our pilot 2016 fall season, for the National Science Teaching Association’s journal, Science and Children. While our big question remains the same each fall as a result of the scope of our program, the many ways we seek to answer it has varied each season as a result of the interests of the children and teachers and what is happening at the time on the farm. It always excites us to see which direction the children’s interests take us!

Upon arrival, Farm Sprouts signed in by hunting for an apple with their name on it and voted for apples or pears. We have many apple trees and one pear tree, full of ripening fruit, growing on our 160 acres of urban farmland. They also harvested sunflower seeds grown by plants many helped to plant in the spring. Read more about our sunflower project and seasonal tradition here. Farm Sprouts also met our new classroom animals who reside in an aquarium, including Stevie, the red or fire-bellied leech, and three tadpoles.

We set the stage to work as scientists this week during our large group gathering. Each season, once we’ve worked to form our learning community by getting to know each other and the routines, we shift into a scientific thinking mindset to support active learning through play and hands-on experiences. We discussed what is happening with our “Wonder Wall,” recalling past experiences and identifying ways we are working like scientists. We read a book to learn more about what scientists do to connect to our work on the farm. We make observations, take photographs, draw our discoveries, ask questions, and create plans. We share our thoughts, ideas, and current understandings in many different ways! Farm Sprouts cheered, “We are scientists!” and “We ask questions!”

Once outside, Farm Sprouts dove into our “Invitations to Play.” This week, they worked at a veggie wash station, just as our Sustainable Agriculture team does each week to prepare for C.S.A. distribution. They washed beets and carrots before transferring them to our farmer’s market stand for sale. They could also play as beekeepers, utilizing authentic tools such as a smoker, brush, and hive tool to calm and move the bees and remove frames in order to harvest honey, also to be then sold at the market. Otherwise, Farm Sprouts created process apple roll art and engaged in mathematics to create graphs related to the number of legs of the animals that call the farm home. Thank you to our Sustainable Agriculture team for providing us with our veggie wash produce and Farm Sprouts families to donating our beekeeping suits and tools in the past!

Next, Farm Sprouts hiked down the lane to harvest apples. They visited some of our animals before returning to wash and munch. We enjoyed a story while we munched, Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins for the morning groups and Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Treckentrup in the afternoon groups. We marveled at the fact that the brown indentation on the bottom of the apple is where there was once a blossom, which bees hopefully visited, and then the fruit grew. To conclude the day Farm Sprouts documented their thinking and discoveries in their journals. We were sure to show our gratitude for the day, thanking the trees, bees, birds, sun, and each other for all we offer our community.

MSU and MSU Extension are doing some incredible work when it comes to bees and other pollinators. Interested in learning more about Michigan apple pollination? Check out this resource and learn about the Michigan Pollinator Initiative. Definitely “bee” sure to watch this incredible video about the “Heroes to Hives” MSU Extension project. Dr. Adam Ingrao and others share and how us the ways bees and beekeeping are impacting human lives. In the video, Dr. Ingrao states, “They understand there are causes larger than themselves and they want to serve those causes” (2019). We believe the same is true of young children and that our role is to respect and foster this need to contribute. Read more here about how we did so in our fall 2018 and spring 2019 seasons. It’s actually amazing us that some of our returning afternoon Farm Sprouts are still creating maps in their journals, an interest which continues to be guiding their scientific inquiry processes. We’re excited to see the many ways Farm Sprouts will continue to contribute to our farm community and beyond this season!

Interested in purchasing local honey? Seek out and support these local beekeepers:

Clay Ottoni is a local beekeeper who also supports the farm and sells honey and other bee products every Wednesday from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
following the C.S.A. distribution schedule. He’ll also be joining our upcoming Pumpkinfest event with his tasty and bee-autiful goods. Honey from Clay ends up in our tasty smoothies and other farm-to-table snack creations as a part of our program.

Rich Wieske of Green Toe Gardens in Royal Oak, MI was on hand with fellow beekeepers to support MSU research at MSU Tollgate Farm this week. Contact him at rich@greetoegardens.com.

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions. – Claude Lévi Strauss

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