Steiner pupils getting a buzz

Rentahive owner Murray Rixon shows a bee frame to (from left) Rudolf Steiner School teacher Renee...
Rentahive owner Murray Rixon shows a bee frame to (from left) Rudolf Steiner School teacher Renee Crocker and pupils Emily Bendall (9), Tomas Middleton (8), Zoe Barton (9), Lucas-John Waldron (8) and Ruby Botica (8). Photo by Gerard O'Brien
Being encouraged by your teacher to smoke on school grounds is not your typical educational advice.

But when you are tending thousands of honey bees, as were pupils at Dunedin's Rudolf Steiner School yesterday, it is good advice.

Year 4 pupils were given an opportunity to use a bee smoker on a temporary hive, to calm the bees as Murray Rixon, of Rentahive, transferred them to their new home on school grounds.

For Steiner pupil Ruby Botica, the experience gave her a nervous buzz.

Despite being a little afraid of bees, she was one of five pupils chosen to don bee suits and get up close to them.

''I know they won't sting me if I don't run around screaming and waving my hands in the air.

''I'm safe in the suit. I feel like an astronaut or a giant marshmallow.''

Teacher Renee Crocker said the new hive was set up in the school's orchard as part of her class's farming study this year.

She said the Steiner curriculum gave equal importance to nurturing the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of its pupils, requiring different learning experiences to be brought to pupils at specific ages and times.

She said 8- and 9-year-olds had an increasing awareness of themselves and their individuality, and the idea that a lifespan was limited.

This often filled them with a desire to make a mark on the world, to find their place and work hard towards a result that is tangible and useful. Farming was one area that met that need, she said.

With a growing awareness worldwide of a need to protect bee populations, Steiner School executive officer Clare Ridout said it was very pertinent the children got first-hand experience of bees and the ''extraordinary organisation'' of beehives.

The school is one of several in the Dunedin area to rent beehives from Rentahive in Mosgiel.

Although it was exciting to work closely with the bees, for Ruby, the most exciting part was still to come. Having a beehive on school grounds meant she and her fellow pupils would be able to eat home-grown honey and make beeswax candles later this year.

''I like all spreads, but I'm looking forward to having honey on toast in a couple of months.''

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