Rural Campus students establish Beekeeping Legacy Project

Every year, Dilworth Rural Campus students work on a community TRAIL project. TRAIL is an acronym for what is essentially real-life, inquiry-based learning that deepens understanding through telling, seeing, practicing and transferring. As part of their TRAIL learning, Year 9 students at the Rural Campus are expected to come up with a project idea, potentially based around something that they are passionate about and then bring it to life.  

For students Brendon Tse, Ashton Balzat and Jack Aitkenhead, coming up with an idea was the hardest part. Then, they came across an image through their web surfing and research that inspired them and formed the basis of their TRAIL project. “We came across an image that depicted what the world would be like without humans, compared to what the world would be like without bees. The image of a world without bees showed how all plants that bees pollinate would die, which would then lead to the animals that eat those plants dying. This would slowly impact the entire food chain. We thought, why not have a beehive to pollinate the area around the school and help increase the population of bees?” said Jack.

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Ashton Balzat, Jack Aitkenhead and Brendon Tse

The three boys decided that for their TRAIL project, they would establish beekeeping at the Rural Campus. They would set up a hive and bee colony which would help pollinate the school gardens and they could also use the beeswax and honey for other projects. As a starting point, they approached a local organisation called Kopuku Road Honey owned by Jess Cordes and her husband Nate. The students knew that in order for their project to be successful they would need a lot of mentorship and advice. Jess not only provided them with the information they needed, she also generously donated a bee colony, hive and equipment. Next, she helped them raise the funds necessary to keep their bees healthy and purchase some additional equipment.

Coming from a home where money was tight and opportunities were limited, Jess said that helping the boys was her way of giving back. “Helping young people be presented with opportunities they may not ever have the option of having is something that is very close to my heart. And of course, we love bee keeping and sharing our knowledge” she said.

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Jess Cordes' company Kopuku Road provided significant support for this TRAIL project

Regardless of the help and guidance from Jess, something that proved to be incredibly challenging for Brendon, Ashton and Jack was the interruptions caused by COVID-19. “Our project is very hands-on and there were many things that we would ideally need to learn in-person but this couldn’t happen during the lockdown.” Their teacher, Claire van Dam commends the boys for their project work, despite the challenges that were thrown at them. “I’ve been impressed by their determination to continue with their project during lockdown, to ensure that things can proceed once they return. They’ve kept in good contact with their mentor and stakeholder, followed advice and actioned ideas quickly. I really appreciate that they have attended every TRAIL Zoom meeting; engaged and enthusiastic. I’ve seen the same energy and drive from them online, as they have in class. They certainly haven’t let the lockdown stand in the way of their goals” said Claire.

Throughout this experience, the three boys have learnt a lot. “We have learnt different things about bees and how to bee keep. But we have also learnt how to work together under tough circumstances” said Jack. The most rewarding part about their project, is knowing that they have helped put together a legacy project. Rural Campus boys in the future can learn how to bee keep, harvest honey and make different beeswax projects for years to come.

Most importantly though, their project will be contributing to increasing the population of bees in our country. “In New Zealand, you will likely never find a wild beehive and if you do, it’s likely to have come from a purpose-built beehive and swarmed. Beekeeping is so important to make sure that we have bees and that we don’t lose this important part of our ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers and other plants which serve as food and shelter for creatures large and small. Bees contribute to complex, interconnected ecosystems that allow a diverse number of different species to co-exist” says Jess.

WIN_20200512_16_44_07_Pro.jpgJack Aitkenhead working on their TRAIL project from home during lockdown
May 18, 2020