The Beeman has surpassed even our own expectations; we were thrilled in 2010 when the book was announced as the winner of The English Association’s Award for the Best Non-Fiction title for Children aged 4-7. So when we heard about Laurie Krebs and The Beeman being selected for New York State’s Agriculture in the Classroom’s Literacy Week, we couldn’t help but ‘bee’ excited. The program, made possible by a partnership among Cornell University, the NYS Education Department, and the New York Farm Bureau, seeks to foster in young students all over New York State an awareness, understanding of, and appreciation for the agricultural system in America.

Every year, a book on an agricultural topic is selected to be read to over 40,000 elementary students. In late March, Laurie and her husband Bill (a real live Beeman who the book is based on!) traveled to elementary schools throughout New York to read the book with students, and discuss all things bee-related. They even brought along a child-sized beekeeper suit for the children to try on.

We couldn’t think of a better way to learn about these buzzing creatures that fortify nature than Laurie and Bill sharing the book, talking bees with children, and letting them try on a real beeman’s suit! We’re excited to share this interview with Laurie about her book.

How did you come to write The Beeman?

I wrote The Beeman because I am married to the real Beeman (Bill). As he was learning about his new hobby, he shared his enthusiasm with me. He then came to my first grade classroom and charmed the children with photos, stories and beekeeping equipment. The kids learned more than they ever knew they wanted to know! It was such fun for us all. So, I decided to write a story that could go into classrooms where my husband and I could not go. Hence, the birth of The Beeman.

Do you think children have practical knowledge about the agricultural world?

A lot of children only know what they see in the grocery store. They have never seen carrots with feathery green tops pulled from the ground, for example. Perhaps garden markets help to show that people actually grow the food we eat. However, the schools I visited in NY State were in the agricultural belt, so the children were more informed than many others. When I was teaching, we grew radishes (and flowers) in our classroom. The class got to see what happened underground, because we used a see-through planter.

How do you keep kids (and parents!) interested who might not see the direct relevance of agriculture in their lives?

I think ‘hands on’ activities are the best way to involve kids (and parents) in most forms of learning. After they have watched a seed grow into a flower, seen a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, tasted honey that bees have made, visited a pumpkin patch to choose their jack-o-lantern, kids have something to tie learning and fun together. Teachers can do a lot to enrich the lives of those children who might not have access to farms or gardens.

How do you think a student benefits from learning about bee keeping?

Right now, bees are under such stress that apiarists (bee keepers) around the world are concerned about the potential loss of their gift of pollination. Scientists are working hard to find answers to the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that is destroying hives. Kids may or may not be aware of this, but they can learn how helpful bees are to our environment. Sharing the positive features of honeybees with them is a good start.

While you were out in the classrooms, were any of the students apprehensive about bees?

Of course, kids want to share their ‘being stung’ stories. I stress that honeybees are very gentle and only sting when they are frightened. The usual culprit is their nasty, look-alike cousin, the yellow jacket, that stings for little or no reason at all. Since the two insects look so much alike, bees get a bad name. I try to point out all the ‘sterling qualities’ of honeybees so that the kids might remember the difference between the two. I’ve been told that The Beeman helps to portray this message. Ag Literacy Week and Ag in the Classroom is a wonderful way to promote this understanding.

What was your favorite part of your Agriculture Literacy Week experience?

‘You can get the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t get the classroom out of the teacher.’ I loved being back with kids again. They were interested, informed and asked marvelous questions. What more could I ask? It was my favorite part of the experience.

If you could tell everyone in the world one amazing, crazy cool bee fact, what would it be?

Bees are cooperative. They work together for the good of the colony, not for their individual benefit. I tell the kids they go about their jobs and never, ever complain (Not a bad strategy for world peace).


For more information about Colony Collapse Disorder, and the effect on our agricultural environment, check out this recent article from The New York Times.

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