About two weeks ago, a friend suggested that the children and I join them on a bus tour to an apiary located about two hours from here. I voiced some concern about the possibility of the children being stung, but she assured me the trip would be quite safe, and so on the appointed day we were on our way.
This is how the day went:
9:00-11:00 - rode the bus north. Some beautiful views. Made one stop along the way for a bathroom break.
11:00-12:00 - arrived at the apiary. Sat in the shade at the picnic tables and ate the lunch we brought with us. There were some pens with goats and chickens nearby, which we looked at and petted.
12:00-12:30 - were given a short explanatory lecture by our tour guide, and shown a 10-minute-long clip about the apiary.
12:30 - 13:30 - the children did some bee-related art work in the Visitors' Center, which included coloring the black-and-white picture of a bee and rolling a wax sheet around a wick to make a candle. We also tasted some local honey.
13:30-14:30 - were led by our guide back to the picnic tables. The children were given some poisonous-looking blue ice lollies they ate while waiting for the bus (everyone's tongues were blue). Looked at the animals some more. Washed hands and went to the bathroom.
14:30-16:30 - rode the bus home and ate the last of our snacks along the way.
As we headed back, I was astounded by the fact that through all our tour, we didn't see a single live bee. There was absolutely nothing about the whole experience that couldn't have been done right here at home. In my personal opinion we would have been much better served if the bus had just stopped somewhere along the way so we could picnic among the gorgeous views we glimpsed as we drove by.
So why bother to write about this? It's just that I believe this tour represents very well the modern educational experience as it is delivered to the children - safe, sterile, and thoroughly watered down.
In our old neighborhood we had a friend who kept bees. We learned much more about bees by actually visiting her hives, seeing her wearing the beekeeper's suit, and listening to her talk about her day-to-day work. We learned how to be careful around bees and how to harvest honey. We learned that bees must be provided with a source of water in the summer, and that there are some predators out there after bees and honey. And we learned which plants are attractive to the bees (pretty much the whole hive hummed around our rosemary bushes when they flowered).
It's so easy to learn... pretty much all you have to do is live life without artificial barriers between you and your experiences.