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WCHS students take state's first bee-keeping class

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Pam Walker, left, teacher at Wilson Central High School, poses with senior Ginger Shrout, who is dressed in a bee suit and holding a completed hive box during class on Thursday.

By PATRICK HALL, The Wilson Post

Students at Wilson Central High School are participating in the very first beekeeping class offered in Tennessee high schools this semester thanks to efforts from local beekeepers.

Pam Walker, who teaches the class, said the idea came from two local beekeepers, Jerry McFarland and Jim Murff, who presented the idea to Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis, also a former beekeeper.

Before the class began at the first of the month, Walker said she and Davis met with Mike Jennings, the school system attorney and discussed liability issues. She said when looking for other beekeeping classes in the state, the Tennessee Department of Education found none.

Every Agriculture class in the state has standards you have to meet, but there are no standards for beekeeping, Walker said.

When students signed up and came into class, Walker made something very clear, you will get stung, she said. They also made sure no students who signed up for the class were allergic to bee stings.

In the three weeks since class started, students have learned the basics about honeybees, beekeeping and all the equipment that is involved. Walker said they have 30 bee suits that cover students head, torso and gloves for their hands.

Since this class is the first of its kind, Walker said they chose a small animal care class of sophomores, juniors and seniors to be the first beekeepers. Theyve all had a basic agriculture class, Walker said of the students.

Thursday, the students worked in the shop with McFarland and Murff to build the boxes that will soon become the bee hives. On top of the lecture and classroom basics, Walker said the students enjoy having a hands-on activity to take part in.

They are learning a lot of science and biology, but they also get to do things, she said.

Walker was surprised to find when she started preparing for the class that there is a large beekeeping community right here in Wilson County. She said the list of volunteers include local beekeepers who come in to talk to the students and doctors who will talk to students about the medicinal benefits of honey.

We hope this class becomes a prototype for other programs in the state, Walker said.

On April 7, 15,000 bees will arrive at the school and be placed in six hives on campus near the schools greenhouses. Walker said they would put proper fencing and signage up around the hives to keep people and animals away.

Once the bees arrive, McFarland said the students would work in groups of four to take possession of a hive and monitor the growth in the number of bees, any honey production and reproduction of the bees.

By the end of the summer, the school could have up to 100,000 bees in the six hives on campus. Walker said she hopes to collect and sell Wildcat Honey as a fundraiser for the schools Future Farmers of America program with the honey the bees produce.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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