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Guest Blog - Mag & Lil - Our Journey

Hypnorum: I realised that I could use my site to give others a platform, as although not everyone has a blog site, I believe everyone has a story to share. I 'met' the wonderful Mag and Lil through the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and was bowled over by their enthusiasm, passion, imagination and can-do attitude; this is their story, as told by Mag.

Our journey towards becoming volunteers for the BBCT

Where to start? the beginning of course! As a child in the late 50s in Angus, Scotland, there were always plenty of buzzing insects around. I learnt quite early on that bumblebees were friendly i.e. they didn’t try to steal my ice-cream like wasps and they were more interested in flowers than me, or my ice cream. I was interested in flowers too, mostly wildflowers that grew along the roadside, which I regularly picked and could name. Bumblebees and flowers went together, I could see.

Fast forward to the 70s when I started to teach primary children in Sussex. Wildflowers and bumblebees always had a place in and out of my classroom, along with gardening, nature walks and nature tables. In the late 80s, I arrived back in Scotland not to teach, but after inheriting a very large garden, deciding to grow flowers. I learnt a lot about gardening, and growing, and selling. I also learnt about bumblebees and other pollinators, which flowers they preferred and how they lived. I missed the classroom though and the children so back I went to a country school with a very large outdoor but underused space......ideal for a wildlife garden I thought.

After a few setbacks, including the headteacher worrying that we might ‘get frogs’ if I dug a pond and concern that we might get ‘too many’ bumblebees if we planted out our proposed bees and butterflies area, I set to, creating our garden area, with the help of children (of course) and volunteer parents and other community members.

Can I say a little bit here about volunteers in that, all through my professional life, I volunteered, in that a lot of what I did was extra curricular and community based. More importantly though was the very necessary and wonderful help I received from volunteers who had no other motive than to help where they could see that help was needed. A lot of my projects would never have taken place without my ‘volunteers’. Their generosity was and still is heartwarming.

Our garden thrived....frogs hopping, bees buzzing, birds tweeting, butterflies flying and much learning taking place in and from our garden.... writing, reading, maths, science, art, drama .... THEN in 2006 we were told that our school was unsafe and it was being pulled down and a new school built. ‘What about our garden, our pond, our wildlife....not to mention our wonderful stage’ we protested. All to no avail! Plans and preparations were made and a new school was built. We got over it.... we had to. We dug a new pond and created a garden at the new school. Also we managed, just before the old school was destroyed, to rescue pond and other wild life and plants.

At just about the same time, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust was established.... a whole Trust just for bumblebees..... how delighted we were. A special bumblebee garden was created and funds raised. After I retired as a teacher, bumblebees still featured highly in my own garden where I spent and still do spend a lot of time, still learning about our ‘furry friends’ . When Lily was six we started to do a Beewalk for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, counting the different bumblebees we saw on a ‘walk’.

Lily was keen to spread the word about bumblebees and the worrying fact that they are now in decline. How could we do this? Although we had been members of the BBCT for many years we decided to become proper ‘volunteers’ so that we could help others to understand about the plight of the bumblebee. We received ‘volunteer’ badges, leaflets and posters from the Trust and a few suggestions of what we might do ..... plenty of scope then for our own ideas. We did appreciate this as many charities only want volunteers for specific projects!

Lily wanted to do some activities for children so we based all our ideas on....

  • Which activities would appeal to children?

  • How would the activities allow children to learn about bumblebees?

  • Would the activities be easy enough for children to attempt, but challenging enough to be of interest?

  • How difficult or time consuming would it be to prepare the materials for the activities?

  • What about cost of materials?

  • What about setting up the activities and information on a stall in a marquee or gazebo?

  • Would we need more materials to do this and what kind of materials?

We did set to and produced our first stall. Success drove us on and we adapted our ideas as we went. Some activities were immediately popular and well received, for example, as our stalls were outdoors, we did a mini safari with the children, giving them a little identification sheet to use with a little reward when they returned to the stall with completed sheet.....little prizes and rewards are always popular. Even if the children didn’t find all the bumblebees, the idea of searching, followed by finding a bumblebee, then the realisation that there are different kinds of bumblebee very much raises their awareness plus the awareness of their accompanying adult.

We were then asked to do mini ‘bee walks’ in other areas, which we combined with interactive talks with audience involvement. Children and beginner adults seemed to favour this simple approach to learning and while they were learning from us, at the same time we were learning from them and adapting accordingly. Learning has to be fun for children, and light hearted for many adults too, including us, so what could be more fun than directing or participating in a ‘drama’ .... one of my other loves next to bumblebees, flowers, gardens and wildlife...… but that is another story.

Hypnorum: These ladies are pretty inspirational. An example of how anyone can make a difference and create a buzz. For information on how you can volunteer for the Trust, click HERE. I hope you enjoyed reading Mag's blog. If anyone else is out there with a bee story or information they would like to see featured here, then do get in contact. I'm keen to help spread the word!

You can follow Mag and Lil on Twitter and Instagram @bumblebuddeez

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