From their reliable pollination habits to their production of delicious honey, bees are integral to our ecosystem. This comprises the mission behind Bee City Canada, an organization whose goal is “to inspire cities, towns, First Nations, schools, businesses and other organizations to take action to protect pollinators.” According to Dr. Darren Brouwer, associate professor of chemistry, it’s an initiative that has piqued the interest of Redeemer faculty and staff for quite a while.
“There was never really a place to do it in terms of courses,” he says. “Then, last winter, I was teaching our new core capstone course and had designed a set of projects that focused on Redeemer’s campus. Pursuing the bee certification seemed like a perfect fit.”
The core capstone course (CTS 410) is the culmination of Redeemer’s formative core curriculum. In their final year, senior students gather from their various programs to work on an open-ended project that draws on each student’s individual disciplines while fostering valuable skills such as teamwork, project management and entrepreneurial thinking. Because there are certain requirements that must be met before a campus can become bee certified, it was the ideal undertaking for a semester-long project.
“It turns out we’ve actually met most of the requirements already by using little to no pesticides in our groundskeeping and growing native plants, which are really attractive to pollinators,” explains Brouwer. “We also have an apple orchard in the back and a couple of open water sources, so it turns out that we were already well on our way.”
Although Brouwer remained closely involved, the majority of the project was carried out by a dedicated group of students. Group member Tina Cook, a recent health sciences and chemistry graduate, was able to fulfil her long-held desire to help the bee population.
“You hear all the time about the bee crisis and how bees are so important to our earth,” she says. “But, I never knew there was a way I could get personally involved. This project allowed me to jump in and at least contribute a little bit.”
Working with Bee City Canada, which involved a hands-on approach that produced real-world results, was previously missing from Cook’s undergraduate studies.
“It was really cool that we got to start a project, watch its progress and then see the final product. It was definitely different than anything I’ve done at Redeemer or any other school.”
Along with reduced pesticide use and plentiful native plants, a huge part of making Redeemer a hospitable environment to pollinators was the group’s innovative bee hotels.
“We placed about five of them all over campus behind the cafeteria and the library, and even a couple back in the orchard and the teaching garden,” explains Cook. “They’re just little wooden structures where bees without colonies or hives can go and lay their eggs.”
Before wrapping up the semester, the group created educational resources for the Redeemer community. This included putting up posters around campus, posting informational descriptions by the bee hotels and making a list of ideas for National Pollinators Week, a time set aside around the world to increase the appreciation and protection of pollinators. Because this celebration takes place in the fall, it has been left in the capable hands of SEEDS, Redeemer’s environmental club.
“We’re supposed to have dominion over creation. This doesn’t mean ‘to dominate,’ but ‘to take care of.'”
The group’s efforts paid off, and Redeemer is now a proud bee-certified campus. The benefits to pollinators and the environment as a whole are, according to Cook, an undeniable part of a faithful Christian life.
“We’re supposed to have dominion over creation. This doesn’t mean ‘to dominate,’ but ‘to take care of.’ We say that bees are so important to our ecosystem, but there are many things we do that aren’t good for them. As Christians, we should always watch out for the little guy while taking care of God’s creation.”