Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy Students Take Part in Beekeeping Class

Hives Tended by Students at Trinfo.Café’s Community Garden Produce Local Honey

​Hartford, Connecticut, May 31, 2017 – Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) teacher Jared Lewis began instructing a high school beekeeping course two years ago. Lewis, who also teaches physical and environmental science, already had his own beehives at his home in South Windsor and was inspired to share his knowledge and experience with students. 

​HMTCA students Chanel Gayle (left) and Bashara Samuda. Photos by Helder Mira.
The bees are located in Trinfo.Café’s community garden and the class visits the hives on a weekly basis as weather permits. Lighting a bee smoker helps to relax the bees before the students approach the hives. One student explained, “Too much smoke will make the bees aggressive, but the right amount will calm them.” While wearing specialized protective gear, the students can examine the hives and collect the honey, which is expected to be ready by the end of June or early July. Last year, Lewis continued to work with students throughout the summer to collect the honey and prepare it to sell. As part of the class, the students also learn how to use the honey to make products – like lip balm, candles, and lotion – that they sell at school and at farmers markets including Billings Forge.

A year after the beekeeping class was first started, students created a Beekeeping Club at HMTCA so they could continue to learn and work with the bees. “The hope and plan is to continue teaching two classes each year, and as more students take the class, we will build a stronger club,” Lewis said.

Many of the students said that they were scared of bees before taking the class; for some, their fear was actually what motivated them to participate. Lewis said that he enjoys teaching this subject for many reasons. “I think the first is watching the students overcoming their fears around the bees,” he said. “I also like seeing the different student interest blossom: some like the hands-on work at the hives, others like to make products, some like to do marketing. And lastly I like to see students find and research interesting topics about bees on their own and then explain it to me, other students, and the public.”

One student enjoyed the class and working with bees so much that she started a beehive at her church. Lewis hopes that the class and the students’ interest in bees will continue to grow. “I'm hoping we can get to around seven or eight hives at the school,” he said. “This would give us opportunities to do even more interesting things, like trying to raise our own queens.”

According to Susan A. Masino, Vernon Roosa Professor of Applied Science at Trinity College, the community garden at Trinfo.Café is a place to experience real relationships between the College and the community. “The Trinity students love the outdoor classroom and love to meet and work alongside the neighbors,” Masino said. “Some gardeners participated in the Simsbury Grange Agricultural Fair last September for the first time. This year they are looking forward to selling their vegetables and herbs alongside the HMTCA bee products.”

Trinfo.Café offers an array of adult computer literacy workshops and youth media and computer literacy programs with community partners in neighborhood schools during the summer and the academic year. Its director, Carlos Espinosa, said that Trinfo will celebrate its 17th anniversary this September. “The community garden started seven years ago as a collaborative project with Trinity’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders with the goal of empowering residents to become urban farmers,” Espinosa said. “Over the years, the garden has grown to involve Trinity faculty and staff, as well as community groups with youth summer programs that link their programming to environmental issues. The Beekeeping Club is the latest addition to this stage of Trinfo’s evolution.”

Written by Annelise Gilbert ’17 and Andrew J. Concatelli