A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Teacher: Bowling Green teacher Elizabeth Forbes showing students the buzz around the bees

By Bobby Ellis
Special to KyForward

As the sun came up over the trees, warming the two painted boxes on the outside of the wall of the Bowling Green High School baseball field, Elizabeth Forbes laughed.

“The baseball guys are going to be so upset with me,” she said from behind a mesh screened hat.

The two hives of honeybees there had begun to wake up, and several thousand bees had begun to cover the back wall of the baseball field.

“There’s something on there that they like,” said Forbes. “Good thing baseball practice isn’t going on.”

Forbes, a school psychologist, has been a beekeeper since 2009. She has been the head of the beekeeping program at the high school since helping to get it started in 2012.

“I got inspired by a documentary, ‘Vanishing of the Bees,’” said Forbes. “I thought it would be really cool to get a program going here, and I’ve had a lot of help from the principal and superintendent. The school staff has been amazing, helping me move the hives because of the construction work here. Everyone has gotten involved, even the art students. They painted the hives for me.”

There are currently three students involved in the program: Allison Huntsman, an 8th-grader from Bowling Green Junior High, Abby Adams-Smith, a 10th-grader, and Sam Garbin, a 9th-grader.

Forbes said that the biggest challenge of the program is getting students interested year after year.

“You know, people graduate and move on, so then you need to recruit,” said Forbes. “People usually are interested, but it’s a lot of work. Students are usually getting out of school right when the bees really get going.”

That didn’t seem to deter Forbes’ current group, as they made their first trip out to the hives and were introduced to the different tools used by beekeepers.

“I honestly was pretty nervous,” said Adams-Smith. “I was scared coming into it, but now I feel pretty empowered by it. Having come out here and faced my fears of being around them, I know I’m going to get stung at some point, but I’m not terrified to be here.”

“I certainly heard the buzz about it,” said Sam Garbin. “I’m waiting for that first sting too, but I think this is really neat.”

Honeybees go in and out as they gather pollen at Bowling Green High School. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Elizabeth Forbes helps Allison Hunstman, an 8th-grader at Bowling Green Junior High, put on a beesuit. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Elizabeth Forbes lights burlap fiber to use in the smoker. Smokers are used to calm down honey bees and calm them. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Elizabeth Forbes opens up one of the BGHS hives. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Elizabeth Forbes, right, takes a picture of Sam Garbin, left, and Abby Adams-Smith as they use a hive tool to pull slats from a beehive. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Elizabeth Forbes shows Sam Garbin, left, and Abby Adams-Smith brood cells inside of the honey bee hive. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Abby Adams-Smith, a 10th-grader at Bowling Green High School, pulls a honey comb slat from one of the hives. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Elizabeth Forbes, left, and Sam Garbin, a 9th-grader at Bowling Green High School, examine a honey comb. Forbes was inspired to introduce a bee keeping program to the school after watching a documentary called “Vanishing of the Bees.’ (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Elizabeth Forbes holds a honey comb pulled from one of the two nests at Bowling Green High School (Bowling Green Independent). (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Honey bees crawl on honey comb slats pulled from one of the two hives at Bowling Green High School (Bowling Green Independent). The bees program was started at BGHS by school psychologist Elizabeth Forbes in 2012. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

Bobby Ellis can be reached at bobby.ellis@education.ky.gov

This story originally appeared in Kentucky Teacher, a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education.

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