Griffin knows bees.
Like, really knows bees.
He knows them so well, in fact, during a discussion on bees and making honey, he throws out facts right and left—or tries to squeeze them in—as professional beekeeper Jeff Rector from Dr. J’s Bees in Ringgold, Georgia, runs down the who, what, when and why of bee life.
“Did you know that bees are actually 90% girls?” Griffin asked.
“One of the main problems as a beekeeper is beetles,” he stated.
“The bottom box is usually where they are supposed to lay the eggs,” he explained.
Griffin, a homeschooled 9-year-old heading into sixth grade, comes by his apiary knowledge honestly. He has four hives “at my grandmother friend’s house.”
“I’ve also studied bees a lot,” he said, pretty much unnecessarily.
Bee behavior is just one lesson during Peas in a Pod, a summer camp running June 6-10 in the Challenger STEM Learning Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Students in first through sixth grades are learning about science, engineering, arts, culture and several other topics through cooking techniques and food itself.
In groups of four to six, campers ingest the information in 30-minute bites.
“We hope to expose young students to the fun and wonder of science,” said Irene Hillman, director of the Center for Student Success in the UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) and one of the Peas in a Pod instructors.
“They are natural scientists, full of curiosity and creativity. We hope to harness that to help them embrace engineering and technology.”
Saltine crackers and spray-can cheese show how civil engineering builds houses. Although the cheese is meant for mortar not munching, fourth-grader Zoe—she of the green hair—couldn’t resist a taste and loudly proclaimed she was in “cheese heaven!”
Campers try to ID food by smell, touch, sound and taste. Jolly Ranchers candy is melted into stained glass, showing how materials can be transformed through heat.
Making chopsticks offers insights into Asian cultures. Mixing vinegar and baking soda—which produces a fizzy gas—to inflate balloons provides a chemical engineering lesson. Food-waste recycling teaches concepts in environmental science.
To illustrate that, whatever their culture, all people are the same, the book “Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story” says, “Fry Bread is U.” Fourth-grader Miles had a question about that. “Does that mean we can eat people?”
Peas in a Pod is geared for the kids, but instructors have fun, too.
Along with the crackers/spray-can cheese lesson, Chris Frishcosy, director for the CECS civil engineering lab, also helped campers make strawberry jam, which is essentially the same technique as mixing cement.
“That’s one of my favorite activities,” he said with a healthy smile.