This past spring, a friend and I arranged a field trip for our children to visit a local beekeeper. This homeschool dad often conducts tours for kids right in his own backyard where his bees are kept. He put on a wonderful, informative, hands-on presentation for us all. We left knowing a lot more about bees. The kids were inspired to learn even more once we got home. Using a few resources we either already had or found at the library and on the Internet, we were able to pull together a unit study all about bees and honey. I share it with you here in hopes that another family will enjoy this unit as much as we did!

All About Bees
For an introduction to bees, I recommend reading several books: How Do Bees Make Honey? An Usborne Starting Point Science Book by Anna Claybourne, The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole, and The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci. Anne Rockwell and Gail Gibbons have also written good books about bees. Most of these should be available through your local library. These books are all kid-friendly and will give you lots of great information on bees and honey.

History
Why did people start keeping bees in hives? What did early Americans use honey for? Do some research to find out about the history of beekeeping and the uses of honey. Some good websites to check out for this research are the following:
outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/history.htm
www.abfnet.org (The American Beekeeping Federation)
www.nhb.org (The National Honey Board)

Science

  • Bees are insects. What characteristics make them an insect? Using clay, mold your own bee and be sure to include the qualities that make bees insects.
  • Bees dance to communicate. Read about the dances they do and create your own "dance language." Have fun dancing instead of talking! 
  • Read the book What Does a Bee See? by D.C. Ipsen, or go to this website to see like a bee yourself: centersti.com/bee/beyehome-1.html.
  • Some people are allergic to bee stings. Do you know someone who is? What happens if they get stung by a bee? What can they do when they get stung? Interview a doctor or nurse to learn more about this very serious medical issue.
  • There is a definite hierarchy in a beehive. If you have enough children, assign roles and let the kids take turns being the queen. Act out how they get a new queen, what the queen's role is, what drones do, etc.

Bible

  • If your kids are comfortable with the books of the Bible, have a sword drill and look up the following verses that mention honey: Exodus 3:8, Judges 14:8, I Samuel 14:26, Psalm 19:10, Psalm 119:103, Proverbs 25:16, Isaiah 7:15, Ezekiel 3:3, Matthew 3:4, Revelation 10:9.
  • Study the "Bee-Attitudes" in Matthew 5:1-12. Talk about the characteristics Jesus focuses on and how we can display those characteristics in our lives. Jesus describes how we can lead blessed lives as His followers. Contrast how Jesus wants us to act with how people act in the world today. Which is right? Which is harder?
    Create a bee character and have your children draw him doing some of the different "bee-attitudes" mentioned in the verses. Consider binding the drawings into a book with the corresponding verses for each drawing neatly copied underneath (copywork). Save this to show off to the grandparents!
  • Talk about the saying "Busy as a bee." Are bees busy? What are they busy doing? Read Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Bees are busy working hard. Do we work hard even at the smallest task? Even when no one is looking? Does God want us to give our best effort in everything we do? Talk about how we can do everything as unto Him. Keep a record of when you notice that your kids are doing something "as unto the Lord" and are really putting forth their best effort. Have a special dinner and read the list aloud as a family.

Home Ec
Honey can be used instead of sugar in recipes. Below are some fun recipes that kids can make and enjoy. Remember--babies under a year old should not have honey, as this can cause infant botulism!
(Recipes found at www.honey.com. Check out this site for many more recipes and activity ideas using honey.)
Honey Hot Cocoa
½ cup honey
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups hot milk
In small saucepan, combine honey, cocoa powder and water; mix well. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Set aside until ready to serve. To serve, stir chocolate mixture into hot milk. Makes four servings.