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There are bees — hundreds of them, maybe more — flying in
and out of a second-story window at Center for Inquiry (CFI) School 2, but
they’re not having a free-for-all inside one of the classrooms.

 

Throughout the day, this colony of honeybees collects nectar
from the onsite garden and neighborhood plants, then heads back into the school
via a hole leading into a Plexiglas beehive, where they deposit their daily
haul. It’s a routine performed multiple times a day.

 

Kate Franzman “The Plexiglas allows the kids to get up close and personal
without fear of the bees, which is ingrained in a lot of us,” said Kate Franzman,
the founder of Bee Public, who helped set
up the hive at CFI 2 and educated its students and staff about the tiny,
misunderstood creatures.

 

The see-through hive — also called an in-classroom
observation hive — allows students to flex their knowledge about
honeybees, including how they live and work.

 

“The other cool thing is that it brings in other classrooms
within the school and outside the school who want to come in and see this hive,”
said Franzman. “So the kids are able to teach other kids about why bees are
important, why you don’t have to be scared and all the cool things they do.”

 

Students spreading knowledge about bees to others is one of
Franzman’s goals, although it wasn’t part of her original plans when she
started Bee Public.

 

About four years ago, Franzman left her advertising job to
“try something of my own.” That something turned out to be an urban gardener at
Growing Places Indy, where she
still works as manager of the U-Pick Farm and Farm Stand at the Chase Near
Eastside Legacy Center.

 

“I’ve always been a nature lover and grew up a free-range kid,
an only child, who was outside all the time. We lived in a rural area,” said
Franzman. “I’ve always been interested and involved in environmental justice
initiatives. So kind of my background and my passions lied there.”

 

Around the same time that her life as an urban farmer began,
the idea for Bee Public blossomed.Beehive at CFI 2

 

She’s been advocating for honeybees and other pollinators
through Bee Public for the last four years, teaching beekeeping classes for
adults and setting up hives in public places. She currently has 11 hives throughout
the city, including at Public Greens: Urban Kitchen with a Mission, Growing
Places Indy, The Chase Legacy Center and Eskenazi Health Sky Farm.

 

Working with local schools didn’t begin until she
reconnected with former colleague Jim Poyser. Through his organization Earth Charter Indiana, the two
partnered on the “Save the Bees” project and art exhibition earlier this year.
The goal was to educate the public and local school children about bees, their
role in society and how they are dying at alarming rates because of the use of
harmful pesticides and other factors (Colony Collapse Disorder).

 

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from SustainIndy, Franzman has
been conducting educational presentations about bees at local schools,
including many within IPS, and building hives on school grounds.

 

The hive at CFI 2 (as well as IPS Super School 19 and
Harshman Magnet Middle School) is part of a pilot program to get hives into
schools and to get kids to take ownership over them. The schools create bee
teams, but Franzman is always available for support.

 

“We’re educating the entire school — from the grounds
keepers about not spraying the lawn with pesticides to students on how to take
care of the bees,” said Franzman, who works with schools throughout the state.

 

CFI 2 Principal Andrea Hunley said the work Franzman is
doing in schools changes the way children think of bees and their role in the
environment.

 

“They are so knowledgeable about bees, and I think that
forever these kids will think about the impact of cutting down trees, taking
out flower gardens and spraying pesticides,” said Hunley. “You know, you can read
about it but seeing it, touching it, feeling it just creates a different
impact, and they are very conscious of that.”

 

Hunley said the greatest impact has been raising her
students’ awareness about environmental issues, and about the impact that every
little organism has on making this world work. “And now they’re teaching their
parents about bees.”

 

It has been a learning experience for Franzman, too.

 

“I wasn’t confident I would be a good speaker for kids,” she
said. “I’m not a goofy person, and I thought that I would need to wear a bee
costume to grab their attention. … But it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever
done. Kids are really paying attention and we have a great back and forth
conversation. I’m seeing kids take up the cause (of saving bees).”

 

She’s excited about the work she’s doing with students and
even more excited about their enthusiasm and dedication to the cause.

 

“Getting kids fired up and letting them know that they can
actually do something about it (is rewarding), because kids are the only ones
who can do something about it … really,” said Franzman. “Their entire
generation has to take it up on their own.”

 

As the 2016–2017 school years draws near, Franzman has plans
to work with more schools and to set up more hives throughout the city.

 

“I would love to replicate what we did this year (for the
2016–2017 school year) because there are other schools wanting hives,” she
said. “Right now I’m trying to find another source of grant money to make that
happen.”

 

To learn more about bees and the work that Franzman is doing
in schools, click here.