Olathe & Southwest Joco

Olathe West students abuzz about the environment after ‘bee’ grant

Virtual beekeepers help save the honeybees

Concern about colony collapse among the honeybees spurred Bryan and Barbara Ritter of Garland, Kan., to leave leave their jobs in the Kansas City area and move to a farm about 100 miles south and become virtual beekeepers. Essentially we keep bees
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Concern about colony collapse among the honeybees spurred Bryan and Barbara Ritter of Garland, Kan., to leave leave their jobs in the Kansas City area and move to a farm about 100 miles south and become virtual beekeepers. Essentially we keep bees

There’s already a buzz going around about next school year at Olathe West High School, and it’s coming from just outside the school building.

That’s where biology teacher Kelly Kluthe set up a new bee hive last week.

Kluthe received a $2,000 Innovation in Learning Environment grant from the Kansas City Chapter of the Association for Learning Environments to buy the necessary materials. The association chose four of 55 applicants around the metro to receive grants.

“One of my jobs as a teacher is to get kids outside, experiencing animals that they normally wouldn’t interact with. Bees give a good opportunity to do that,” Kluthe said.

Kluthe thought her project was a longshot to receive the grant, but out of the box — or out of the classroom — thinking is one of the things that made her proposal stand out from the rest.

“Kelly’s grant was really interesting to us, because it was something that pushed beyond the typical approach to standard learning in the classroom. Hers is a really great example of cross-curricular efforts,” said Michelle Chavey, president of the association’s Kansas City chapter.

The hive, with the bees, cost about $500, and Kluthe spent the remaining money on beekeeping suits and honey extraction equipment.

Kluthe loves bees so much that she has a detailed picture of one tattooed on her arm.

“It’s just something I’ve read about a lot online and watched a lot of videos,” Kluthe said. So she gave it a shot a few years ago for the first time as a teacher at Wyandotte High School.

It’s set to become an interdisciplinary project. Kluthe said that after the first year, she hopes the hive will produce honey that horticulture classes can extract and give to the culinary arts program. Collecting beeswax for the art program is also a possibility.

Kluthe said that next school year, the Green Tech Academy at Olathe West will start on a prairie restoration for the area surrounding the hive to surround the bees with native plants. Her students will help research and choose the right plants for the space.

Though the hive will have non-native honeybees, the prairie plants will help support native bumblebees and carpenter bees in addition to the honeybees.

“I like the idea that you’re not going to get this at any other school,” said 18-year-old Victoria Frye, who graduated from Olathe West a few weeks ago but came back to help Kluthe set up the hive. “I’m afraid of bees in general, but I see it as a great opportunity to go up to the bees and get used to them. It teaches me that I don’t need to kill bees.”

Kluthe has a group of students who will check on the hive once a week throughout the summer.

“I want students involved every step along the way, from taking care of them, to extracting the honey eventually,” Kluthe said. “They’re going to be the ones planting it (the prairie restoration) and taking care of it. … You learn a lot about ecology and interactions between organisms, human interactions and our effects on the environment.”

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