Bees Find a Sixth-grade Advocate

NORTH GREENBUSH — Wearing a beekeeper’s hat, veil and long gloves, Jack Ross-Pilkington carefully lifted the lid off the new beehive.

“The bees are dying. We need to help them,” Jack said.

He has with the help of beekeepers, his mom, his friends and the staff at the Robert C. Parker School where he is a sixth-grader.

The Parker School is now home to 10,000 Carniolan honey bees. In two weeks, the busy bees have been so productive that the school’s new Bee Club has doubled the size of the hive.

“The bees are growing so fast,” Jack said.

Bees buzzed into Jack’s life after he saw the documentary, “Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?” last year at WAMC’s The Linda in Albany. Worried by the collapse of hives globally, Jack acted.

“This is critical to the food supply,” Jack said.

His mom, Lisa Ross, successfully wrote grants to obtain $900 from Dreyer Corp. and $100 from Gardener’s Supply. The $1,000 is underwriting the supplies and equipment for the school’s bee program.

“He just ran with it,” said Meg Taylor, head of the Parker School, which has 115 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

With 77 acres off Route 43, the school runs its Parker Planet to take advantage of the rural setting to provide an interactive environmental science program for its students. The school began the program in 2009.

“We empower students to make a difference,” Taylor said.

Jack’s honey bees are changing the school.

“This is a great catalyst for us to be learning about bees,” said Jamie Crouse, the Parker Planet coordinator and adviser to the new Bee Club’s fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade members.

The apiary also has been incorporated into the science curriculum. Students are learning about the role that bees play in the environment.

Jack, of Stuyvesant Falls, joined the Southern Adirondack Beekeepers Association. He picked up a mentor in Rodney Dow, a master beekeeper, who provided the nucleus of the Parker School hive. Tony Antonucci, an East Greenbush beekeeper, also volunteered to help the school with its hives.

Jack and his fellow club members are learning how to handle the bees. Jack can handle the special tool designed to make taking the boxes housing the hive apart while the bees surround him.

“Obviously, I’m not a trained beekeeper,” he said.

Holding up the frame and looking at the honey bees, Jack said, “This is our hive.”