CEHD alum engages students with bee-inspired beekeeping club

Eric Hayner with his students

Dec. 11, 2017

College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University alum Eric Hayner (BS '04, Special Education; MA '08, Special Education), began the Bee-Inspired Beekeeping Club in Spring 2017 at Mattawan Middle School to give students an experiential, project based learning activity. The club connects Hayner’s passion for community and environmental education with his dedication to helping his students succeed. 

Intended for at-risk students, many of whom also have an IEP, the club meets after school on Mondays. With six students participating in the first year and five participating during the current school year, the club has been a huge success. The students built bee hives, set up an apiary and maintain the bees. Hayner has seen students who don’t have a social group they identify with find a place in the club. One student even shared that he liked being with the bees more than he liked playing his video games! “It made me feel really proud to hear that,” said Hayner. 

The success of the program has been bolstered by incredible support from the school administration and social worker, the participation of a beekeeping mentor and additional volunteer, and funding from four different grant sources over the last year. Hayner hopes the club will become sustainable through honey and other bee product sales in the future. 

Installing the bees

The seed for the club was planted while attending a conference where he learned about a similar program a teacher had started. He tucked the idea away in the back of his mind and when he took a bee-keeping class at Kalamazoo Valley Community College out of personal interest, he saw a way to bring the experience to his students.  

Hayner is enjoying is eighth year teaching at Mattawan Middle School and has been teaching for fourteen years total. He teaches 8th Grade Resource Room Math, 6th and 8th grade Academic Enrichment, and provides Teacher Consultant services with student in 6th-8th grades. The training and pre-internships he participated in while at WMU helped prepare him to work with students with emotional impairments.Bees are an important contributor to our society and are disappearing at a staggering rate. He hopes that students will develop a deep respect and connection with bees and all of nature through their work on the project.