HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. – As Berkeley County Schools CTE Director Ken Pack and Hedgesville High ag teacher Chris VanDyne looked out the window of the shop classroom the morning of April 14, four students were busy bees, finishing up tasks involved in everything from gardening to building a shed.
“Chris VanDyne’s shop right now, up here at Hedgesville High School, we’ve got students that are planting seeds for the high tunnel,” Pack said. “We’ve got students putting on a roof to a shed they’re building.”
VanDyne added: “I have students doing seeds for the high tunnel. I have students out in the high tunnel, doing vegetables out there. I have students in the greenhouse, doing transplanting and cutting. I have some up there finishing a roof on the building that’s for the bees. I’ve got students everywhere, doing everything. ”
Adding to the tasks of those busy bees are some bees themselves, as the Hedgesville program recently added 12 colonies of bees to the projects taken on by the Introduction to Agriculture students recently.
VanDyne spent time leading up to the arrival of the bees teaching about the importance of bees and lessons on their care and lives. The introduction class and several others assisted in building 12 hive bodies, 14 supers and preparing material needed for a bee apiary. Pack assisted freshman students with the hives.
“The excitement was more than I thought it would be,” VanDyne laughed. “That day (they arrived), I didn’t have enough bee suits for everybody that wanted to participate.”
Much like caring for the plants in the gardens, the students will care for the bees and eventually cultivate the honey produced. The students are working on a wildflower space to help aid the bees in their production, the students learning about the importance of pollinators to the environment.
“It’s another learning opportunity for students,” Pack said. “Students in this class, every day, have a new learning prospect, of gaining knowledge.”
VanDyne added with a laugh: “No two days are the same up here.”
The ag teacher stressed the importance of hands-on learning found within his classroom, the memories the students make and the lessons retained.
“To me, I’ve always been that route with the way I teach,” VanDyne said. “They seem to retain more; they get more involved. They just, overall, seem a lot better. When they come back to me years after graduation, they remember that kind of stuff. ”
He added that in fields such as agriculture, it’s ever-changing, the bees being the perfect example of one more tool in the toolbox as both students and teacher stay up to date on trends and work in the industry.
“Agriculture changes every day and every year, and we have to be able to adjust to teach the kids the new technologies,” VanDyne said. “A lot of this stuff, I’m learning as they’re learning, or I’m learning the week before I’m teaching them. It is unbelievable how things change. I have to stay up on it to keep them up on it to make sure they have the knowledge and the skills they need to succeed in life. ”
Pack commended VanDyne and his students for their willingness to tackle the project, one that’s been a longtime coming as the duo discussed the potential of bees some time ago.