Child-led Projects

A child-led project: Honey bees

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For the past 3 weeks my 5 year old has been very interested in bees. It started with a question while putting honey on her breakfast… ‘Dad, how do you think they get the honey from the bees?’ We got out the iPad and looked up a short documentary for her (a search for ‘bees’ on the ABC Splash page gave us a number of videos which have become her favourites).

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is hereFrom then on she has been hooked! She has watched the documentaries over and over. And I can’t blame her. They are really fascinating! I thought I might document some of the ways we have been encouraging and supporting this interest. For myself, as well as to show how child-led learning naturally unfolds.

Not long after this interest first arose we had a show and tell day at our homeschool co-op. My daughter decided she would like to talk to her friends about bees and make a beehive scene out of craft materials to take. She spent a whole day collecting materials, putting them together, waiting for them to dry, etc. The next day she was so proud to stand up in front of everyone and tell them how the bees collected nectar and took it back to the hive to make honey, pointing out the bits of her art that corresponded to what she was saying. I got to hear what she had remembered from the documentaries and was surprised to find she had taken in a lot more than I thought.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here

We took a trip to a strawberry farm and observed the bees doing their job amongst the strawberry plants. We talked about their role in pollinating the plants and how they helped the strawberries grow. This prompted questions about how pollination actually works so I printed out a diagram and we talked about the anatomy of a flower.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here

After seeing this fabulous post from Tinkerlab about stop motion movies I downloaded the app onto our iPad. When my daughters asked about it I gave them a quick tutorial and then they got to work making their own movie. Again, my 5 year old was inspired to represent her current interest through another medium. She made the whole scene out of play dough, came up with the story, moved the bees around, and took all of the photos without any help from me. I love it! I think there is going to be a lot more stop motion in our future.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here

We recently made a trip to ‘Honeyworld’ to see the beekeeper show. The girls were SO excited about this one. It was fabulous for them to see everything they had been learning about in real life. We saw the bees working in the hive, identified the different types of bees and learnt more about their job, saw how the beekeeper opened up the hive, heard about the important role bees play in the world, and learned how they extracted the honey and the other products that come from bees. We also got to taste a LOT of honey and learn about how they make different flavours.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is hereThe wattle trees are flowering now and there is lots around where we live! We have been walking down to a few trees at the end of our street to watch all of the bees buzzing amongst the trees. We collected some wattle to bring home and add to our nature tray and I also plan on setting up a simple invitation to paint, hoping to inspire some more artwork about bees.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here

She has so many questions, so I make a note of them to help her remember everything she would like to research. I encourage her to think of ways that she might be able to find the answers and then help her to do that herself.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here

She will often document her own learning after it happens, and I notice how the further she gets into this project the more detailed her drawing/writing/creating becomes.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here

As usual when an interest arises, I set up an area in the play room dedicated to bees. It gives us somewhere to display what they’ve been learning, store things they are working on, and I think also shows them that I value their work.

A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here A child-led project: Honey bees | Happiness is here

So far the shelf contains:

  • The bookย Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber: This is by far our favourite bee book. It is the story of a day in the life of a ‘scout’ bee but is also full of interesting facts about bees. Perfect for my 5 and 3 year olds.
  • BUGS by Barbara Taylor: This book contains so much information on lots of different bugs and I can see it’s going to be useful for a lot more learning in the future.
  • Safari Life Cycle of a Honey Bee figurines.
  • Life cycle nomenclature cards from Suzie’s Home Education Ideas (free printable)
  • Parts of a honey bee nomenclature cards from Carrots are Orange (free printable)
  • Bee inspired ‘fold paintings’ by the girls.
  • Pictures of: bees collecting nectar and pollen, larva and pupa, bee anatomy, and the anatomy of a flower.
  • Some of the wattle they have collected.

We will be adding more as more learning happens.

This has been such an interesting topic and I have learnt a lot too! I can’t wait to see where else it takes us, maybe more learning about flowers and pollination, learning about other species of bee, or exploring the impact of the declining bee population further. It is so enjoyable for me watching their interest and understanding grow, and the joy they get from learning about something they’re passionate about.


August 16, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Wonderful. Beautiful. I love it.

August 16, 2014 at 9:30 pm

This is so inspiring! My five year old and three year old have been interested in honeybees too, so maybe I’ll steal some if your ideas.

August 17, 2014 at 1:28 am

This is awesome! My daughter is the same age and has just started a YouTube channel for some of her interests and projects. I saw that TinkerLab post about stop motion, but didn’t share it with her. You’ve motivated me to do so!

August 17, 2014 at 7:17 am

I love the way you’ve set up the playroom area as a display of their artwork and a space to further explore a new interest. The stop motion video is a fantastic idea, too! Your brilliant support and nurturing made this a remarkable example of child-led learning.

August 17, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Brilliant. Loved seeing her stop motion video!!!

August 17, 2014 at 8:13 pm

I have enjoyed reading through all your posts and I feel more confident I will be able to homeschool my daughters now. Thank you for posting

August 17, 2014 at 9:33 pm

This is lovely! What a great learning experience for your daughter and what a wonderful example of interest-led learning! Thanks for sharing my printables too.

August 18, 2014 at 5:04 am

Oh wow. I’m just discovering your blog and it’s magical! Thank you so much for sharing your explorations!

August 21, 2014 at 6:23 am

My 3 year old is loving your daughter’s video. She was inspired to check out the bees in our garden and made a model bee and flower from playdough. And you reminded me of my visit to Honeyworld as a kid, I still remember tasting the different honey flavours. It’s a bit far from us here but we are fortunate to have a neighbour who has bees and sells honey commercially so I will chat to him about a visit to see his work.

September 21, 2014 at 7:01 pm

I have two daughters who loved nature when they were little girls.
I think their view of the world is so much clearer and accepting when they are young.
My older daughter ( now 31 ) wrote a little novel called “The Flower & the Bee” that amazed her teacher. She was only 6 then but loved the whole pollination thing that happens between flowers & bee’s resulting in HONEY.
Your blog just bought it all back to me. : )
Isn’t nature wonderful?

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