You may not have heard the buzz yet, but the Senior Class Gift Committee has secured a very special gift for the entire Champlain community. To get the lowdown on this exciting initiative, we sat down with Champlain Core Professor Kristin Wolf to learn about this special project.
Champlain College Alumni Relations: Hi Kristin! Can you tell us what project you and the Senior Class Gift Committee have been working on?
Kristin Wolf: Absolutely! I am in the process of starting a non-profit organization, tentatively named Beetopia, which will provide material support and beekeeping training for indigenous communities as a source of sustainable supplemental income. This work currently is focusing on communities in the Peruvian Amazon, but my colleague and I foresee the possibility of taking the model elsewhere in the future. Our hope is that the project will promote individual and community empowerment, entrepreneurship, and economic self-sufficiency, while preserving natural and cultural resources. In that vein, I have been working with the amazing seniors who are part of the Senior Class Gift Committee to bring an apiary to Champlain!
The Champlain apiary provides a local connection to our work in the Amazon, but more importantly it introduces the Champlain community to the intriguing and rewarding work of beekeeping at a time when both managed and wild bee populations are in decline.
CCA: Where will the Champlain apiary be located? How has the Senior Class Gift Committee helped with this project?
KW: The apiary, Champlain's first living, learning laboratory on campus, will be housed behind Perry Hall. And the Senior Class Gift Committee has made this all possible! Funds raised by the Class of 2013 will ensure the long-term stability of the campus apiary by covering the costs of annual maintenance, providing bee-friendly habitat, and, everyone's favorite, producing honey. The Senior Class Gift essentially gives ownership of the apiary to the Champlain students and leaves a lasting legacy of opportunity by the Class of 2013 for future generations of students who will work with, learn through, and benefit from the bees. The apiary received funding from the Vermont Community Foundation and from a private donation from the family of a senior. Those donations were crucial for start-up costs, such as equipment, supplies, and fencing. The Class of 2013 will sustain this project.
CCA: What learning opportunities will the apiary provide to future Champlain students?
KW: Having an on-campus apiary provides the college with a living laboratory. Bees are a fascinating super-organism that have a highly specialized division of labor, sophisticated communication systems, and a mutually beneficial relationship with landscape of which they are a part as they trade floral resources for pollination services. In addition to experiencing the bees through their biology and role in the ecosystem, bee products (honey, wax, pollen, propolis, even the bees themselves) provide a unique opportunity for students in business and marketing to create a profitable endeavor out of the apiary.
CCA: How will the Champlain incorporate the apiary into the Core Curriculum?
KW: I've worked bees into every course that I've taught in the Core - they're a natural fit for the inquiry-based learning we facilitate in the Core. In the first year's Concepts of Community, bees are an interesting alternative to the traditional anthropocentric investigation of community, with a highly specialized division of labor that would make Plato and Adam Smith proud. In the second year's Scientific Revolutions and the new Ethics & the Environment, the apiary provides the opportunity to use/learn about the scientific method and explore the intimate relationship honey bees have with the local landscape, respectively. In the third year's Globalization & Technology, students can study the impact of global bee decline, the importance of pollination services to the global food system (valued at $19 billion per year in the U.S. alone), and the case study of the Amazon beekeeping project as a method of community-driven development. And these are just the courses that I teach!
CCA: How does the apiary support Champlain's commitment to sustainability?
KW: The apiary supports Champlain's commitment to sustainability in two primary ways: (1) by sharing valuable campus space to house the bees, which will in turn support the surrounding ecosystem and (2) by enhancing the current curriculum by giving students the opportunity to experience and interact with an organism that humans are intimately dependent upon, yet rarely consider.
In a way, the apiary expands our collective consciousness, making us aware and appreciative of the interconnectivity that supports us.
CCA: And lastly, I hear honey is quite versatile! How do you like to use honey?
KW: Honey and other bee products do indeed have medicinal, nutritional, cosmetic, and culinary value. Honey contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, has natural antibiotic and antioxidant properties, and captures a taste of place that is deliciously fun to pair with food. Day to day, I use honey to sweeten my morning coffee, but I enjoy it most in spoonfuls straight out of the jar.
CCA: Thank you for work in creating such a meaningful project, Kristin. The seniors are leaving behind quite a legacy, huh?
KW: Yes! Working with the seniors on this project has been highly rewarding. I am heartened by the fact that they have taken on this project with such enthusiasm and in doing so have secured student ownership of the apiary for this class and future generations of Champlain students.
"Our Class of 2013 is leaving our legacy in the form of an apiary. This unique gift to the college will provide experiential learning opportunities, create connections to community development projects in the Amazon, and support Champlain College's commitment to sustainability. As we prepare for graduation, professionally and personally enriched, I think it's important to reflect what this College has don e for us. Supporting our Class Gift is just one small way to show our appreciation for Champlain, to serve as a thank you for its role in making us who we are, and to provide even greater educational opportunities for classes to follow." - Kaisey Arena '13