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the livingston parish news Thursday, January 19, 2012

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teacher feature

All abuzz-z-z-z North Live Oak ELEMENTARY fourth graders in Watson are on a crusade to save the Louisiana Honey Bee. By Jamie Webb

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The Livingston Parish News

hings have been really buzzing around North Live Oak Elementary since October. That’s because the fourth grade students - and their teachers Kim Hastings and Kim Vellier - have been doing all they can in an effort to save the honey bee, which they learned in third grade was the state insect of Louisiana. They are doing this in conjunction with Disney’s Planet Challenge (DPC), which Hastings and Vellier learned about online. DPC is a project-based learning environment competition for elementary and middle school classes throughout the United States meant to teach students about science and conservation while empowering them to make a positive impact on their communities and planet. “If we win the contest, then Disney flies all 40 of our students to Disney World for three nights and four days,” Hastings said. “They provide hotel accommodations, the meal tickets, park passes, and they hold a special Disney Planet Challenge ceremony and parade. Our school will receive $10,000, and the teacher’s classroom will receive $8,000.” The prize money funds further research about their chosen cause. “The reason why we chose honey bees is actually the United States does not have a native species of honey bee,” Hastings said. “They were brought over by the Europeans in the 1600s.” Most of the bees today are Italian and Russian species, the less aggressive bees. “In 2006, David Hackenberg, a commercial farmer, discovered that a bunch of his bees had disappeared,” Hastings said. Hackenberg lives and works in Pennsylvania; however, the bee disappearances were not an isolated event. “They’ve been disappearing worldwide,” Hastings said, adding that France and Australia have had similar problems. Scientists and government employees began studying the insects and soon decided the bees were experiencing a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, or an abrupt disappearance of worker bees in an area. Though some may be happy to not have to deal with the bees, this spells disaster for everyone. Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” “Bees are responsible for pollinating over 90 different crops, and every fourth bite of food that you put in your mouth has been pollinated by bees,” Hastings said. “They’re one of the largest pollinators.”

Bees have the added bonus of being the only insect that produces something humans can eat - honey. The students learned that honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and water, and it is the only food that contains the antioxidant pinocembrin, which is associated with improved brain functioning. Honey also boosts the immune system. “One of our students did research on honey in the Bible,” Hastings said. “Honey is mentioned 36 times in the Bible. In Isaiah, it’s quoted as saying, ‘The messiah will grow up eating honey so he will know what tastes good.’” (Isaiah 7:15.) The Promised Land was also flowing with milk and honey. The students are involved in every aspect of the bee project, including designing posters and shirts, calling and inviting guest speakers, taking pictures, writing thank you notes to guests and leading presentations. They also go around to other classes in the school to teach students what they have learned about bees, and a group of the students called the Bee Danc-

Alternative designs proposed for a specialty Louisiana license plate to be introduced to the legislature by state Rep. Valarie Hodges.

ers dress up like bees and teach other students a bee dance (coordinated by Vellier) as well as the Häagen-Dazs song “Do the Honey Bee.” “We put it in their hands as much as possible,” Hastings said. The students knew their bee project would take a lot of work, and many of the activities took place after school or on Saturdays. During their project research, students learned that one of the main reasons for the bee disappearance is urbanization. “We created a greenhouse at our school, and we’re going to raise sunflower seedlings. In the spring, we’re going to go out into

the community and plant bee habitats,” Hastings said. These usually include tulips, daisies, sunflowers, roses and clovers, their favorite plants. Their research also indicated that 30 percent of bees prefer to nest in solitude, so the students created 15 wooden solitary bee boxes that they will place around Livingston Parish for the insects. They are also working with State Representative Valarie Hodges in order to write a bill and get it passed for a specialty Louisiana license plate called “Save the Honey Bee.” Hastings said she got the idea for the license plate after seeing a car with a pro-life license plate. The students decided that it was something they wanted to pursue, and they helped design the plate. “We had the kids contact the DMV, and we found out that you had to create a bill, get the bill passed into law through your legislator, and then write a check for $3,500 and present that to the DMV along with your design,” Hastings said. Jimmy Dunkley, the retired Administrative Coordinator of Apiary and Forestry for the Louisiana State Department of Agriculture, put them in touch with Joe Sanroma, the president of the Louisiana Beekeepers Association. They will travel to Henderson on Feb. 17 to propose their plate

Fourth grader Jami Gwyn poses in a beekeeper hat during a visit from guest speaker Allen Fabre, the Administrative Coordinator of Apiary and Forestry for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture.

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At top, Halle Varnado holds up her winning design for the bee project logo and T-shirt. Above, showing off one of 15 bee boxes students built to be placed around the parish is Angelle Bergeron, who is wearing one of the T-shirts. At left are Bee Dancers, who go from class to class teaching a bee dance as well as a bee song that provides information about honey bees. They include (from left, front) Halle Varnado, Piper Horne, Molly Fann, Clayton Hill, (middle) Kade Lane, Shelby Cassidy, Jami Gwyn, Abigail Wang, (back) Brennan Stokes, Lance Jumonville and Tyler Genre.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

the livingston parish News

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Kids and the bees From C1

design to the Beekeepers Association and get their approval. The students raised half of the money through fundraisers, and the Beekeepers Association agreed to fund the rest. The students raised funds by participating in TerraCycle, an international program designed to help eliminate the idea of waste by purchasing recyclables. All of the students in the school collected empty candy, gum, chip and straw wrappers from home and around the campus, and parent volunteer Shelly Chenier collected the items, boxed them and sent them to TerraCycle. “There’s just so many things that we’re able to recycle, and we never would have even considered doing this until we got so excited about this contest,” Vellier said. The students raised more than $500 from TerraCycle, and they raised the rest of the funds through T-shirt sales. Student Halle Varnado created a T-shirt design that consisted of a fleurde-lis with a honeycomb background and a honey bee in the center. Hodges visited the school before Christmas break to learn about the license plate, and she agreed to introduce the bill to the bill committee and to the House of Representatives and Senate when the legislative session resumes in March. “The students are learning how your voice becomes heard in government, and that, no matter how old you are, you can make a difference,” Hastings said. “Once the license plate becomes a law and available to the public, the money that is raised from those goes to the LSU AgCenter for more research on colony collapse disorder,” Vellier said. Another fundraiser they plan to do is sell flavored honey straws - strawberry, blueberry and pina colada - on Fridays. The students will set the prices themselves by determining the profit margin, Hastings said. They will donate their profits to fund more research. “We feel that God really has truly blessed our project,” Hastings said. “When we first began, we really approached it as winning a trip to Disney World, but when we did our research, the kids have become very passionate about honey bees, and we all have really fallen in love with the bees.” “We never thought it was going to explode as well as it has,” Vellier said. “God has surely blessed us because everything has just fallen into our lap. We go to one thing, and we have people that we never met before tell us, ‘We’re willing to help you no matter how we can. We’ll be there for you. We want to come speak to your students.’” Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain agreed to lobby to make sure the license plate bill gets passed. Allen Fabre, the Administrative Coordinator of Apiary and Forestry for the La. Dept. of Agriculture, visited the students to talk about the importance of beekeeping and how he inspects bee boxes. Jacquelyn Hoover, who does beekeeping as a hobby, shared her experiences with bees and taught about the different types of honey. She also brought honey hive frames and samples of honey from around the world for the students to taste. The teachers and students are also expecting a visit from scientists at the LSU bee lab, one of

only four such facilities in the country. The students and teachers did not limit their activities to Livingston Parish. In December, Vellier and Hastings made an appearance on the WAFB Channel 9 Morning Show to discuss their project and the bees. They attended the Louisiana Beekeepers Association annual convention in Pineville, and they visited Liuzza Produce Farms in Amite, La., where they took a tour and got up close and personal with bees, chickens, goats, horses and cows. While there, they learned that farmers had to fly bees in from other areas in order to maintain their normal product quality, Vellier said. Hastings said bees help create better, larger fruits and vegetables with higher percentages of crops. They also learned that the workers there only spray pesticides at night after the bees have gone back to their hives. Liuzza beekeeper Robert Taylor showed the students how the bees communicate with each other, the special dances they do, and how to get the bees to relax so they won’t sting. “They were literally touching the bees and tasting the honey,” Vellier said. They were also able to plant and water seeds at Liuzza, which they brought back to their school to plant in their greenhouse. On Jan. 3, they also persuaded the Hammond City Council to reinstate beekeeping. “In 1952, the city of Hammond banned beekeeping within city limits, so all of our students - all 40 of them - wrote persuasive business letters to the city council members and asked them to reinstate beekeeping within city limits,” Hastings said. They prepared a Power Point presentation on the benefits of beekeeping, and one of the students gave the presentation at the Hammond meeting. They learned the next day that the Hammond council decided to adopt a beekeeping ordinance created by Dr. Dale K. Pollet, a retired entomologist at the LSU AgCenter who now works as an adjunct professor. On Jan. 25, to commemorate the 100th day of school, the students will be dressed up like bees while the administrators dress up like beekeepers. The 4-H Club will have a poster contest and award prizes to the students who do the best job of explaining the benefits of honey and the benefits of bees. Teachers and students will decorate their classroom doors with reasons why we should save honey bees. Students will also set up the lounge with cards about bees, and teachers will be able to sample different types of tea and honey. Before Christmas, they attended a School Board meeting to let them know about the project and celebration, and School Board District 2 member Kellee Hennessey Dickerson as well as other School Board officials and central office staffers will be present for the 100th day activities. Local beekeepers will do a presentation at 9 a.m. for the whole school. The bee project is ongoing, and the teachers and students have plans to visit the state capitol in Baton Rouge to meet the bill-writing committee where the bill will be drafted and to watch the bill get presented before the House of Representatives. Hastings said they also want to begin selling organic compost and

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Fourth graders in Kim Vellier's class at North Live Oak Elementary are (kneeling, from left) Abigail Whitam, Molly Fann, Ethan Delaughter, Jack Manchego, Cassady Perkins, (second row) Samuel Frasier, Jacob Molusk, Hunter Bullock, Piper Horne, Lance Jumonville, Halle Varnado, (back row) Brennan Stokes, Erik Kloepfer, McKenzie Kimbrell, Angelle Bergeron, Mrs. Vellier, Carter Alphonso and Tyler Genre.

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Fourth graders in Kim Hastings' class at North Live Oak Elementary are (kneeling, from left) Shelby Cassidy, Cole Crenshaw, Kade Lane, Clayton Hill, (second row) Jami Gwyn, Ashleigh Smith, Abigail Wang, Jacob Houpy, Kaitlyn Waller, Alex Fann, Kaity Ratcliff, (back row), Mary Grace Byers, Makenzie Duplessis, Madeline Mayfield, Alayna Karras, Mrs. Hastings, Angel Penny, Kylie Milligan, Matthew Parrish and Jordan Chenevert. bee-friendly fertilizers. “We want to have a pure, organic garden that the kids will raise and harvest,” she said. “We want to hold community workshops where we invite the community in and teach them how to garden organically and how to treat pests without using commercial pesticides that are harmful to the environment.” Vellier said Principal Michell Stone, Principal Designee Jennine Newsom and Administrative Assistant Monica Hornsby, as well as other faculty members and parents, have all been supportive throughout the entire process. Stone and Newsom have come on field trips to learn about the bees themselves, and they decided to stop spraying bees on campus. Instead, the students will place bee catchers by the garbage cans, which they will empty into the woods behind campus after lunch. Eventually, they would like to establish their own beehive on campus, on a piece of property behind a locked fence so the students are protected from the bees. Hastings wants to tend the hive with students during the year and harvest the honey to sell under the label “NLO’s Sweet Gold.”

Hastings added that she would love to see a beehive on the grounds of the governor’s mansion since the White House has one now. Vellier would also like input from Governor Bobby Jindal or his wife on ways they can improve the project. The Disney Planet Challenge portfolio is due on Feb. 15. Disney will judge the projects and announce the winners in March, then the winners celebration will take place in April. Hastings said if North Live Oak Elementary wins, they want to donate some of the funds to the LSU AgCenter. “They actually breed the honey bees to develop a stronger immune system,” she said. “One of the predators of the honey bee is the varroa mite, and so the AgCenter develops different ways for them to be resistant or tolerant of the varroa mite.” To keep updated on the project, visit their Facebook Page, “Save the NLOE Honey Bees.” “Everything that we’re doing is very educationally sound,” Hastings said. “We’re able to bring in so many more GLEs and benchmarks, and it’s in a real world context, which is one of the hardest things for a teacher to do.” Vellier and Hastings

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North Live Oak Elementary fourth grade teachers Kim Hastings (left) and Kim Vellier are pictured with Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain, who has agreed to lobby for the Save the Honey Bee license plate. were both born and raised in Livingston Parish, and they went through their schooling together. Both graduated from Walker High School before enrolling at Southeastern Louisiana University, where they both earned bachelors degrees in education, masters degrees in curriculum and instruction, masters+30, reading specialist degrees and administrative certifications. Vellier, a mother of two, teaches math, science and social studies. Hastings, a mother of four, teaches reading, English and spelling, and she is currently enrolled in the doctoral program at SLU and is working on

obtaining an education doctorate degree in educational leadership. Both taught at Live Oak Upper (now South Live Oak) for three years before North Live Oak was built. Hastings said LOU Principal Patty Davis encouraged them to enroll in the Teacher Scholar Program at SLU to pursue their advanced degrees, and they had additional support from mentor Deborah Ledet. Though they have their administrative certifications, both teachers plan to buzz around their classrooms for the foreseeable future. “I don’t know if either one of us is ready to get out of the classroom because we enjoy it so much,” Vellier


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