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A Classroom Abuzz

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GCHS Students Assisting With Bumblebee Research

By Joe Foreman, Editor

 An entomologist from the University of Nebraska was at Glenwood Community High School last Monday creating a buzz about bumblebee research with students in Betsy Maryott’s environmental science classes.

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Doug Golick, Ph.D., met with two classes of GCHS students who are doing research on bumblebee nesting habitat.  As part of their project, students are making their own artificial nesting boxes in hopes of attracting bees. Golick and two of his graduate students are working with 40 high schools as part of their research effort.

“Part of what we’re doing is involving high schools and the public in researching science,” Golick said. “The students are being encouraged to be creative with their boxes. They’re doing hands-on work here, not just sitting in a room listening to me talk.”

The GCHS students are filling their nesting boxes with a variety of materials, ranging from clothes dryer lint to wood chips and grass clippings. There’s no guarantee any of the boxes will actually attract bees, but the students are excited about the work nonetheless.

Maryott said the world’s bumblebee population is diminishing and her students want to be involved in a project that could help reverse that trend. A 2010 study conducted at the University of Illinois found the range of the American bumblebee has declined by 23 percent, particularly in Midwestern states.

“Bumblebees are diminishing in numbers significantly. It’s a big problem,” Maryott said. “Bumblebees pollinate almost all of our food crops.”

Maryott said she and her students are still deciding where their nesting boxes will be placed. Some of the possibilities are near hedges, gardens, compost piles, bales of hay, bird houses or fence rows.

“What we’re doing this year is only the beginning,” Maryott said. “This project will continue every year.”

The bumblebee work being done at GCHS has earned Maryott and her students statewide recognition and a $20,000 technology prize from Samsung. GCHS is one of five winners from Iowa in the 2014 Samsung Solve For Tomorrow Contest, a national competition created to promote innovative ways to teach science, engineering, technology and mathematics. By winning the state honor, Maryott and her students are now eligible to compete for a national prize of  $35,000-$140,000.

As part of the application process in the national competition, the GCHS classes are required to submit a short video showing their work. Maryott was filming her students last week as they built their boxes under the guidance of Golick and his research assistants. The video camera was provided to the school by Samsung as part of the competition.