Denise Dutcher had an idea buzzing around her head that she was determined to bring to fruition.
The Creekside Elementary School science teacher wanted to add a little sweet nectar to the lives of her students.
Yes, she wanted to build some bee hives right here in Dexter.
“A few years ago I read an article about students in Missouri who started a bee-keeping club and being a science teacher I have a great interest in wildlife and nature,” she said. “Last July there was an entire Time magazine dedicated to the plight of the American honey bee.”
Those articles created the buzz and the rest took off from there.
“I think there is a disconnect with children because they spend so much time in school and so much time inside with technology and they are not getting outside and exploring nature like they used to,” said Dutcher, who has taught fifth-grade in Dexter for 14 years.
“After seeing these stories I thought it would be a good idea to start a bee-keeping club here in Dexter.”
Her idea first required a few steps. She didn’t know where it would lead her but was hopeful the results would be a bee-keeping club at Creekside for her students to learn and enjoy.
“I first approached the Village at a meeting because I knew they had an ordinance against bee hives,” she said. “They were receptive to it but a few were concerned and hesitant about allowing bees in the community. They suggested contacting people at Gordon Hall and putting it out there. But that would have lost that personal connection because I wanted something where the kids could walk to but also Creekside has a huge garden right outside of my classroom and I thought it would be a great location.
“And you could teach the kids about colonization and they could see the bees pollinating and see the bees taking the pollen back to the hives.”
But after some more thought and research, Dutcher came up with the ideal location.
“Right behind the football field off of Shield Road is property owned by the schools,” she said. “It’s six acres and it’s not in the Village so I didn’t need to get their approval.”
Dutcher then went to Dr. Chris Timmis, the superintendent of schools in Dexter with her proposal.
“He was, and understandably so, a little apprehensive from a legal standpoint,” Dutcher said.
She then decided to see if she could first secure a grant in order to help cover the costs. A $3,000 grant from the Educational Foundation of Dexter (EFD) was accepted.
“They were wonderful and I was so appreciative that they accepted the grant,” Dutcher said.
So it was back to the superintendent.
“He wanted to talk to some people about it and one of his calls was to a superintendent in Lapeer and they had hives out there and he raved about how much the kids loved them and what a great program it was for the students and they had never had any problems,” Dutcher said.
Also, included in the structure of the EFD grant was a stipulation that the hives were protected.
“So my husband Kurt built like a chicken coop to help protect them,” said Dutcher, who has been teaching for 24 years. “And it’s worked out great.”
Since Creekside doesn’t have any extra funds to run the hives as a club, Dutcher volunteers her time to keep the bees buzzing. And there was plenty of interest from her students in her homeroom class to help out.
Dutcher started out with two “packages” of bees with about 10,000 each. The colonies have grown and Dutcher estimates about 15,000 to 20,000 bees per colony for as many as 40,000 bees buzzing around off Shield Road.
Honey bees are a pollinator and are responsible for pollinating over 30 percent of the food people eat.
“They are essential in terms of our vegetables and fruits,” Dutcher said.
But they also provide an educational nectar.
“This is a great way for the students to get out and see that connection between insects and nature and how they go from flower to flower and see the process,” Dutcher said. “They observe the colony in action. We pull the lids off the hives and take out the frames and look for the queen and they can see there is a anarchy in this colony of bees.
“But it also creates for the kids a fascination with nature. They were so excited to get out there and get that close-up look. They thought it was so cool. It was a great opportunity to develop an appreciation for nature. They were calm and asked great questions. It was fun to see them get so excited about learning something new.”
Dutcher was greeted with a “nice surprise” when she logged onto Facebook last week and see a comment from a Dexter reader who posted, “there has been a very noticeable increase in the number of honeybees in our yard this year and I’m certain it’s due to these new hives. Our huge garden is benefitting significantly.”
“I was so excited to see the post,” she said. “I got really choked up by it. It was really nice to hear that the bees are making a difference.”
Sounds like a Dexter teacher and the EFD also are making a difference.