Penny Creek Elementary School second-grader Roya Farhat, 7, explains why the raised flower beds planted with mixed flowers and vegetables are good for bees, and why bees are important to us, Friday during a celebration of the great job they did creating the garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Penny Creek Elementary students are abuzz about bees

MILL CREEK — Two classrooms at Penny Creek Elementary School were overrun with visitors Friday.

The kids were in charge, leading parents and other guests on a tour of their year-long project, an outdoor garden designed to attract bees.

“We call this our reading garden because we read out here a lot. We also call it our outdoor classroom,” said Roya Farhat, 7, a second-grader at the school.

Farhat showed off the raised flower beds planted with a mix of flowers and vegetables. So far the kids have seen two bees among the flowers.

“Bees are very important to our environment because they pollinate our fruits and vegetables,” she said. “And they make that delicious honey you love!”

Inside one classroom, third-grader William Scarborough and second-grader Ethan Stevenson stood holding a large poster showing the life cycle and ecology of bees. They answered questions from parents.

“I think the most interesting thing is there are more than five ways that bees die,” Scarborough said, including mite infestations and pesticide poisoning.

“Native bees can survive mites, but regular bees can’t,” Stevenson chipped in. “This isn’t happening just here, this is happening worldwide!”

Kirsten Judd’s third-grade class joined forces with Valerie Strong’s second-graders for the project.

The project evolved from the life sciences curriculum, Strong said, and their reading about endangered bee populations.

The kids ran with it, sometimes steering their work in unexpected directions, she said.

In addition to the garden, the kids made videos, painted signs and created informational posters. They wrote letters to the landscapers to ask them to let some parts of the lawn grow out with bee-friendly dandelions.

They raised money, applying for and receiving a $5,000 grant from the National Education Association and a $1,000 grant from the Everett Public Schools Foundation.

They also asked for and received 200 free ride passes from Community Transit so they could go shopping for supplies.

“We got these plants from a special place,” Farhat said. “We got them from Lowe’s.”

The entire project incorporated reading, writing, science and technology lessons, Judd said.

“They did a ton of research and we really wanted to them to realize the power of using resources in their community,” she said.

Third-graders Fiona Lazaro and Bella Edmonds later read to the assembled visitors an essay they wrote on how they developed their project over the year.

Next year, Edmonds said, they may install bee boxes, too.

“We’re running out of time, but at least we’re going to keep a few students next year,” Edmonds said.

It’s more than a few kids, Strong said, because the second-graders will become third-graders who help the next class of second-graders learn about bees, and the knowledge will continue to be passed down.

“They all know they are stewards for their entire career at Penny Creek,” Strong said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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