Being a Mentor in the BVBeeks Youth Scholarship Program
If you’ve been asked to be an Adult Mentor in the BVBeeeks Youth Program, your first question is probably “what all is involved in this?” This document is designed to help answer that question.
To get started, let me first give a brief synopsis of the Youth Program itself, so you can understand who the kids are and what their responsibilities are. The Youth Beekeeping Program is a 2-year program designed to help kids, aged 12-18, take their first steps into the world of beekeeping. The program for them begins in August (in sync with their ‘school year’). The kids attend monthly classroom instruction from August to July, where they get the academic basics of beekeeping. These classes are held in conjunction with the regular club meetings. The adult mentors are not required to come to these classes - although it would help if you reviewed the classes so you can see what the kids are being taught. The classes are available online on the club’s website at https://www.bvbeeks.org/beekeeping-faqs/.
In addition, there are a series of “field trips” which the kids are required to attend – these field trips are designed to give them their first exposure to real hives and real bees. Last, the kids are required to attend the Bee School, held in the fall (the Bee School is the major fund raiser for the Youth Program). The kids who have actively participated in the program by meeting the above requirements are then given all of the basic equipment they need – including a bee suit, hive tool, a smoker, and the wooden ware for a hive. In April, they are given a Nucleus colony of bees and their journey transitions from "learning about bees" into "being a beekeeper".
The kids who continue to their 2nd year and are active with their mentors and the program are given a 2nd set of hive wooden ware, and a new queen (April). The plan is for them to split their hive from the previous year, now giving them two hives. 2nd Year kids are also allowed to take the Apprentice Level of the state Master Beekeeper exam.
Your job as an adult mentor mostly begins when they receive their hive of bees - although we do encourage them to participate in the planned field trips with their mentor, if they have one assigned at the time.
Our goals in assigning an adult mentor are:
- We try to only assign 1 "family of kids" per adult mentor. We do this in order keep the burden on each mentor to a minimum.
- The mentors are assigned more or less “geographically” – we try to assign kids who live relatively close to their mentor. This should help reduce the “inconvenience factor”.
- The mentors are there to both help the kids with their hives as well as give the kids more opportunities to learn – there is only so much a person can learn by having just 1 hive. To this goal, we want the kids to come to your hives at least as often as you go to theirs. Preferably, they should come to your hives 3-4 times more often than you go to theirs.
Thus, it is entirely accurate to look at being a mentor as a way of getting "free help" with your hives...
- I would like to assign the mentors as early in the year as possible – early enough so that they could attend the assigned field trips with their mentor rather than me (giving them more opportunities).
Our intent is for the people who volunteer as an adult mentor to spend time with the kids they are assigned, but you should NOT have to incur any expenses. The kids should get everything they need for their hive from the club. If there is something the kids need, you (or they) should contact me (the youth program director) for those items. The club does perform a background security check on those who volunteer, but even there, the club picks up the cost.
How much time you spend with your kids will depend on how quickly they can become independent. Keep in mind, that the ultimate goal is that by the end of the 2nd year, the kids in the program should be able to maintain & care for their hives on their own. Generally speaking, you should plan on spending more time with them at first and gradually transitioning into more of an advisor-type role. Also, keep in mind that some of these kids are high school, while others are still in junior high – each one will have a different level of maturity. But in general, before they get their first hives, they should come out to your hives at least 2 or 3 times. Note that WHAT you are doing is not really all that important – it could be feeding, could be splitting, could be re-queening – the important thing is that they are getting more exposure to the hives and bees. When they get their Nucs, you should plan on coming out and helping them install the Nuc with them (or even, for them). Then the first 2 or 3 times they inspect/feed their hive, you should be there with them. Please make a strong attempt to have them do the actual work of lighting the smoker, gently lifting frames, adding sugar water to the feeder, etc. as possible. In other words, help them by being as “hands off” as you can. As they become more confident & independent, you might be able to just tell them what to do over the phone or email; physically going to their hives less often.
Every beekeeper does things a little differently. I’m sure that you will do some things differently than what they are being taught. For example, most of the kids will be using all 10-frame mediums for their hives. Or we might ask them to do an “alcohol wash” to check for mites. Or it could be something else that they are taught that is different than what you do. Just be flexible and roll with it. When they are with you with your hives, do things the way you believe they should be done. After all, being exposed to the variety of methods is also part of learning we want them to have too.
Last comments, but maybe I should have lead with this: We are NOT expecting our mentors to be "master beekeepers". While it might be nice, there simply aren’t that many people who fit that description in the club (including me). If you’ve had 2 or 3 hives for a couple of years, you ARE qualified.