For two weeks in May, students at Colorado Early Colleges Fort Collins Middle School immersed themselves in learning about bees and other pollinators and how vital they are to our ecosystem.
One of the key elements to Summer Camp 2023’s project-based learning focus, according to CEC and Summer Camp educator Mel Pomponio, is to take students into the community to learn from the experts.
“Last year, we focused on helping our stray animal population by partnering with the Larimer Humane Society,” Pomponio said. “This year, we worked with Colorado State University, The Gardens on Spring Creek, the Northern Colorado Beekeepers Association, the People and Pollinators Action Network, COPOCO’s Honey, and other local beekeepers to learn how bees support our lives.”
Students began their Summer Camp 2023 journey by planting not just pollinator-friendly plants, but also several vegetables in the CEC garden. With the guidance of Kristen Maxwell, CEC Farm-to-School Coordinator, students learned how to intentionally arrange a variety of plants and flowers to best support bees and other pollinators. As an added bonus, vegetables grown in the CEC gardens will directly benefit the school’s Wolf Bistro, which creates farm-to-school, from-scratch lunches every day for middle and high school students during the school year.
While the CEC garden areas help support the pollinator population in the community, students learned that they play a key role in supportingthepollinator population, too, by identifying and helping count the various pollinators they encountered while visiting The Gardens on Spring Creek and the CSU gardens in downtown Fort Collins. These skills help community experts realize the robustness of the pollinator population and target areas of concern.
Grace Wright, a sustainability specialist at CSU, shared with students that one in three bites we eat are directly impacted by pollinators –and not just bees. Other pollinators include those pesky moths that migrate through Colorado each spring, and birds, bats, flies, and wasps. Wright said there are many easy ways we can support pollinators in the community:
• Turning off porch lights that can confuse nocturnal pollinators
• Leaving leaves and other plants on our lawns through the winter to support hibernation
• Letting dandelions bloom in May to feed hungry bees just waking up after a long, cold winter
• Creating a backyard drinking area for pollinators using a shallow bowl and some rocks
Students created public service announcements to share these tips and more!
Creating a space for students to educate themselves with the help of several members of the community who came in to speak to summer campers was just one part of the CEC Summer Camp experience. Students also built and donated a beehive, made beeswax candles, and explored ways to eat healthy using honey.
“We are absolutely thrilled that we were able to provide an opportunity for our students to interact with and contribute to the community and understand the important role pollinators play in our world,” said Head of School Dee DeeVicino.
Colorado Early Colleges Fort Collins Middle School offers project-based learning opportunities through STEM and other liberal arts-based courses provided to students throughout the school year.