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We understand that some people are scared of wasps? But honeybees? Them we need. Have a read of our latest school inquiry that started last year but has carried over.


CALLING ALL GR 5-8 STUDENTS, click on our padlet and add our questions for our bee inquiry (Note: Link now defunct)


It all started with a Gr. 6/7 unit on biodiversity (you can read about in on another inquiry in action page).


The issue that we were inquiring about was why it mattered that the Bees were dying. On one side was Mrs. Stoner (Gr 6/7 teacher) who was very concerned about the bees. On the other side was Mr. Fernandes (School Principal and clear eco guy) who felt the issue wasn't that big a deal and that we'd survive.


Fast forward to the summer of 2015 when life long learning was in action. Mr. Fernandes read an article in the Globe and Mail by Margaret Wente saying the Honeybee Crisis was over. A triumphant Mr. Fernandes cut the article out and immediately called Mrs. Stoner. Problem solved and crisis averted.


But wait a minute, don't creative, reflective, holistic thinkers take a look at the whole picture? Fine, I guess I needed to research a bit more and wow was there a lot of feedback from others who disagreed with the article by Margaret Wente. So now what? Time to be an effective communicator.


An email was sent to Margaret Wente who wrote the original article. Excerpts of that email are at the bottom of this email.


Next, contact was made with Gard Otis - a Guelph University professor who wrote a response to Margaret Wente  disagreeing with all she wrote. That email is also below.


Several emails later and we had both individuals agreeing to come into our school. This life long learning  experience was really taking off.


Of course there was much work to still be done. On Sept 14, we introduced the topic of the honeybees to our students with discussion and two videos.


Our main goal we told them was for them to care. They didn't have to care about the honeybees, but they had to have an opinion. Apathy does not help anyone at anytime. And  yes to continue the Catholic Graduate Theme that we hope you've picked up, our goal is to create among other things Caring Family Members and Responsible Citizens and both start with getting involved.


Students were  given the articles written by Margaret Wente and Gard Otis with the direction that they needed to explain what they felt were the main points of each article, why they think there is such a disparity in agreement and a question they have for each author.


You can see copies of some of the sheets we used below.


bee articles.pdfbee articles.pdf


bees follow up questions.pdfbees follow up questions.pdf


Bees research.pdfBees research.pdf



 Our goal as always is to have students ask questions about what they are learning,  and find ways to be engaged in their learning. Our bee project also aims for students to see that  there are two sides to every issue and that it is only through constant questioning and research that we can make sense out of complex issues. The hope is that our bees work will be a springboard for students to start delving into issues that are meaningful to them.


Stay tuned and have a read of some more background info below if it interests you.


: Fernandes, Roy (St Sylvester) []





Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 10:50 AM
To: Wente, Margaret
Cc: Barb Stoner
Subject: School visit
Hi Margaret,
My name is Roy Fernandes. I'm the principal at St. Sylvester school in North Scarborough (Kennedy and Finch area). Our school has been doing a lot of work around critical thinking and inquiry especially as it pertains to taking a look at issues from both sides of the story.
Last year during a biodiversity unit with our Gr. 6 class, we looked at the issues around the honeybees disappearing. Students and staff had various degrees of buy in as to whether this posed an issue. I consider myself someone with a strong environmental slant but I could not seem to get concerned with the honeybees whereas my Gr. 6/7 teacher (Barb Stoner) copied on this email was very concerned. It was with great interest therefore that I read your article in the Globe and Mail on July 23rd titled "Good news: There is no honeybee crisis"    I immediately cut out the article and planned to share it with our intermediates as one more example of why we need to look at both sides of an issue. Clearly, too much fuss was being made and just like the salmon that came back, so too were the honeybees coming back. "the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high. Last year, according to Statistics Canada, nearly 700 000 honeybee colonies produced $200 million worth of honey."
Of course I realized after a few days that I probably should see the follow up to your article and of course, I found many divergent opinions online. I'm sure many have come your way. I'm pasting a few  below for Barb.
One thought that came to my mind in retrospect was where the info about the honeybee colonies being at a record high came from (I see that you mention the Un Food and Agricultural Organization near the end of the article but others seem to dispute this claim), and what the average amount of honey produced over the last ten years has been.
My reason for emailing you is to ask whether you would consider coming in to our school to talk to our students about researching articles and writing with a purpose. It would be a fantastic opportunity for Gr. 6-8 students to see how an issue we talked about at school is met with many different opinions by respected journalists like yourself and research scientists at universities.
Please advise if this is something you would be willing to do.  If time, please do take a look at our school website that shows some of the work we did last year around inquiry and critical thinking
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Roy Fernandes
St. Sylvester
260 Silver Springs Blvd
Toronto, ON
M1V 1S4
Tel - 416-393-5373


Next, contact was made with Gard Otis - a scientist who responded to Margaret Wente
Begin forwarded message:
> From: "Fernandes, Roy (St Sylvester)" <>
> Subject: FW: School visit
> Date: August 11, 2015 at 10:53:46 AM EDT
> Cc: Barb Stoner <>
> Hi Jon,
> Could you please pass this on to Gard Otis. I couldn’t find his contact info but would be very keen to have him come visit our students during the upcoming school year to discuss his letter around the honeybees issue. Finding ways to bring science and real life learning alive is always a goal at our school.
> Thanks in advance for any help you can provide in facilitating our request.
> Roy
From: Gard Otis <>
Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2015 10:53 AM
To: Fernandes, Roy (St Sylvester)
Cc: gotis
Subject: Fwd: School visit related to the honeybee crisis (or non-crisis) in Ontario and Canada
Hello Roy,
Your message my acting director Jon Warland was forwarded to me on 11 August after which it got somewhat buried.  Sorry for my delay in writing back to you.
I would be willing to meet with your students to discuss the honeybee issue and more broadly, the issue of neonicitinoid pesticides.  I think that would be a lot of fun!  (I also work with butterflies and have followed the monarch butterfly decline with interest-- but that is a different topic and there is not time for both).
I would want the students to read a few short items in advance of our meeting (such as the article by Margaret Wente and my response to that-- both of which you have read; and the US report on annual colony losses and the press release sent out by Bayer Crop Science).   Perhaps we could have the students divided into two groups and we could have a debate moderated by me?  (I have never done such a thing, but it would get the students engaged!).  Or would that be chaos.  I do not want to lecture.  I could give a brief intro, but would want to actively engage the students in discussion.
For the record, I do not conduct research on neonicitinoid pesticides.  My only concern is that correct and unbiased information be reported.
I am generally around Guelph from now until Christmas.
Dr. Gard W. Otis, Professor
School of Environmental Sciences
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 2W1   Canada
Tel: 519-824-4120 x52478; Fax: 519-837-0442
"Creativity counts.  Knowledge matters.  Innovations transform.  Incentives inspire."
    Anil K. Gupta, Gujarat, India
In a subsequent email, Dr. Otis shared the following
.  I do know my own experience.  I have been working with honeybees now for 40 years, and have been following this matter of neonicitinoid pesticides since they first were suspected of causing honey bee mortality in France nearly 15 years ago.  I am a scientist, and I believe I am well trained in being able to read scientific articles and pick out the problems with the studies as well as understand the results.  I personally have reached the tentative conclusion that neonic pesticides are harming our environment in a variety of ways, and in some settings are harming honey bees.  However, the matter is extremely complex with numerous interactions between various factors, and even scientists disagree on how harmful neonics are.  If their effects were easy to sort out, scientists would have done so several years ago!
 I will happily visit and meet with the students.  We can hold an informed discussion based on questions and answers, with me presenting some basic facts at the outset.  I think it would be instructive for the students.  What I would like them to get from the event is that scientists are limited in the scale of the studies they conduct, some scientists have biases (although we are taught to believe that they don't), that honeybees have many problems facing them, that bees are coming into contact with pesticides that could affect them, and that neonic pesticides are affecting various organisms (insects, birds) in our environments.  I will not reach the conclusion that neonics are the main factor killing honeybees, but they are likely one of the factors.  And finally, beekeepers, especially in Ontario, are experiencing a crisis of winter mortality.  That is a lot, I know, and I am not sure how all that can be achieved.  But it will be an interesting path to try to get there.  I have faith that your students have the brains to think critically about this issue and to better understand it at the end of the session.
Best wishes,
Dr. Gard W. Otis, Professor
School of Environmental Sciences
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 2W1   Canada
Tel: 519-824-4120 x52478; Fax: 519-837-0442
"Creativity counts.  Knowledge matters.  Innovations transform.  Incentives inspire."
    Anil K. Gupta, Gujarat, India
And for those curriculum seekers out there, yes the beauty of the new curriculum is that it does organize learning around big ideas and inquiry
Gr. 5 Social Studies - People and Environment – The Role of Government and Responsible Citizenship
Overall expectation B2
Use the social studies inquiry process to investigate Canadian social and or environmental issues from various perspectives
Gr. 6 Science – Understanding life systems - Biodiversity
Big ideas
• Because all living things are connected, maintaining diversity is critical to the health of the planet. (Overall expectations 1 and 3)
• Humans make choices that can have an impact on biodiversity. (Overall expectation 1)
Gr 7 Geography – Physical patterns in a Changing World
Overall expectation A2
Use the geographic inquiry process to investigate the impact of natural events and or human activities that change the physical environment exploring the impact from a geographical perspective
Gr. 8 Geography – Global Settlement: Patterns and Sustainability
Overall expectation A2  Use the geographic inquiry process to investigate issues related to the interrelationship between human settlement and sustainability from a geographic perspective