Before anything else, the students of the East Cooper Montessori School in Mount Pleasant rush almost every morning toward a glass case. Inside are hundreds of honeybees working frantically in an observational hive at their school.
“It’s the first thing they come in and see in the morning,” Principal Jody Swanigan said of her students.
The Mount Pleasant school and several others in the state are taking part in The Bee Cause, a nonprofit organization that hopes to place 1,000 hives across the country.
Tami Enright, the executive director of the group, began beekeeping three years ago after a Charleston Area Beekeepers Association weekend seminar at the Citadel.
“At the end of the weekend, I ordered bees,” she said. “I was fascinated.”
A mother of four, Enright and her children became enthralled with beekeeping. Her family and the family of Savannah Bee Co. President Ted Dennard, who founded the cause, both became quickly acclimated to living with honeybees in their yards.
“We were just in awe that our children were not afraid of the honeybees,” Enright said.
The biggest takeaway for the children, Enright said, was the need to protect these tiny pollinators for our food supply. She hopes the interest of children for the environment and saving the honeybees provides “an avenue to make a difference in the next generation.”
With almost a dozen observational hives in the Charleston area, The Bee Cause made one of its more recent installation at East Cooper Montessori back in May. Swanigan and the staff kept it as a surprise for the students, as anticipation grew of what was the behind the covering.
“They were just so thrilled when they saw it,” she said. “It’s a really cool project.”
Being a part of the program, Swanigan said, will allow the students to have a greater understanding of the way the world works — the concepts of biology and their interactions with other creatures.
“The learning encompasses not only the care of these bees but the care of the ecosystem that surrounds them,” Swanigan said,
A tube connects the beehive to the outside and allows the bees to pollinate the plants.
“Improving the plants around the school will be the focus this year,” she said.
Inside the case, a batch of beetles remain in one spot as a group of bees continue to beat them back into place. The beetles have somehow invaded the hive, a common phenomenon in the outside world.
“One of the theories on why bees are dying out is because beetles are taking over,” Swanigan said.
Rising fifth-grader Madelyn Moore, 10, was never really a big fan of insects. But with the new hive, she and her friends love to stand in front of the glass and look for the queen bee.
“We like to look inside the holes to see if anything is in them,” Moore said.
After experiencing the hive and learning about the environment, Moore has a greater appreciation for the organisms right outside the school.
“The bees make it feel more organic to have living creatures be a part of our school,” she said.