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'Birney Bees' looking out for their namesakes

At Birney Elementary International Studies Magnet, students, teachers, and parents are showing some love for their school's mascot, the bee, by asking local stores to help save the honeybee.

Completing letters As part of Birney's innovative Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Program, students have been studying the detrimental effects of neonic pesticides on bees. The program incorporates not only plant propagation and organic horticulture, but environmental and ecological awareness.

“From the first day, we teach students to say, ‘Thank you, bees,’" said Mindy Swanson, a Birney parent who also is an instructor in the environmental program. "Their first impulse is to be scared of bees when we see them, but then we talk about how 80 percent of the food in the grocery store is there because of the bees, because of bees’ pollination.

“After that, when we see bees in the garden, the students say, ‘Thank you, bees!’”

Students composed letters to Lowes and Home Depot, large hardware stores, asking them to remove neonic pesticides from their shelves as part of the Friends of the Earth U.S. campaign. Students delivered the notes on Valentine's Day.

As students of an International Baccalaureate World School, Birney students are encouraged to reflect upon how people affect their environments and take action respectfully to make the world a better place. Birney's garden program ties into the IB PYP's six transdisciplinary themes and reflects the specific units of inquiry for each grade level. The program has been so successful it has spun off a non-profit, Dig Down Deep, to teach others how to bring urban garden education to their schools. Contact Mindy Swanson at d3gardened@gmail.com or (858) 522-0687.