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Where Have All the Bees Gone?

It’s a question that’s been puzzling scientists, farmers, environmentalists, industrialists, and anthropologists for some time now: where have the planet’s bees gone?

To be sure, they’re not all gone. But the mysterious disappearance of a significant number of bee colonies across the globe has prompted research and speculation among thinkers young and old.

Now students at Rand, the district’s environmental magnet, will be among those delving deeper into the matter, thanks to a grant from PSE&G.

Environmental Studies subject leader Susan Bartol, who wrote this grant as well as two previous ones from PSE&G, explains, “The mysterious disappearance of bee colonies perplexes scientists and impacts our agricultural systems, which in turn, directly impacts human beings.

“Through an in-depth study of bees, their life cycles, social structures, communication, pollination, and their role in sustaining life on our planet, students will discover how we are connected to these tiny creatures and what we can do to help their populations survive.

“By combining those two critical ideas, students will be able to understand our interdependence on these pollinators and how they directly relate to our well being.”

On October 15, PSE&G Regional Public Affairs Manager of Essex and Passaic Counties, Everton Scott, personally visited Rand to see for himself how this three-time grant recipient is making use of outside funding to enhance student learning. During his visit, Mr. Scott presented Ms. Bartol and Jennifer Gilman’s third-grade class with a check in the amount of $2,790 for the new project, titled “People and Pollinators: A Partnership to Protect.”

Thanks to the new grant, students will not only be able to apply inquiry skills to their exploration of the relationship between pollinators and people, but will educate the general school population and community about the value of protecting this relationship, Ms. Bartol explains: “Through educational exhibits and community service, students will demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities as responsible, informed citizens.”

In addition to receiving PSE&G funding for two previous projects, “Migration Mysteries” and “Across the Water,” Ms. Bartol also successfully secured an MFEE grant this year for her project, “Critters in the Classroom.” (See related article, “15 Great Grants for 15 Great Teachers,” this site.)

“We’re certainly fortunate to have Ms. Bartol here at Rand, where her ideas and energy have done so much to inspire students and enhance their understanding of the natural world,” Barbara Weller, Rand Principal, said this week. “I applaud her initiative in seeking supplementary funding, and I am delighted to see how her efforts have enriched our magnet focus across all grade levels.”

But for Ms. Bartol herself, the reward is in the doing.

“I compose grant proposals and programs based on what the students are curious about,” she says. “I consider what’s local, meaningful, and has far-reaching implications.”

Often, she adds, devising a new research project involves the participation of other staff members at Rand as well as members of the outside community. The “People and Pollinators” project was assisted by Joseph Lelinho of Hilltop Honey “for his guidance on developing this proposal,” she says. “Establishing relationships with our community members makes our proposals strong and provides students with access to expert information.”

Ms. Bartol’s two previous PSE&G grant awards, totaling $3,620, are currently in their second year of implementation.

According to the organization’s website, the PSE&G Environmental Education Grants are “designed to inspire teachers to implement an interdisciplinary approach to teaching about the environment, and to foster new ideas. PSE&G has provided a total of $313,662 to 136 teachers since the program’s inception in 1991, including this year’s recipients.”

To view other projects funded by PSE&G, visit their website. To learn more about Rand, visit the school pages on this site using the navigation bar at left.

Article Date: Nov 14, 2008