What makes a good (or bad) beginners course?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    11

    Default What makes a good (or bad) beginners course?

    What good courses have you attended over the years and what made them enjoyable? What activities would you recommend and what advise would you give to the teachers?

    I've taught short courses for a few different beekeeper associations over the years. I've really enjoyed myself, participants have been complimentary, and it is wonderful to watch new beekeepers catch "the fever". I always ask everyone how I can improve things, make it more interesting, more enjoyable and I've gotten many good suggestions. It's that time of year again for me - preparing for a course that starts the first week in March. What do you think is especially effective? All suggestions are welcome and appreciated!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Mason, MI, USA
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    A good course is one I learn from. A great course is one that provides the newest information.
    I have the students answer the question of what they want at the begining of the course so I can fine tune my teaching to include what they want.
    Clint
    Clinton Bemrose<br />just South of Lansing Michigan<br />Beekeeping since 1964

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Norfolk, Nebraska
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    145

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    Beekeeping classes are typically adults. Hands on activities are highly effective for adult learners. There are draw backs-these activities typically take more preparation time, adequately supplied ($$$ or have a lot of resources at hand) and must be well organized to keep participants busy (possibly multiple instructors/proctors for stations in a rotation).

    Because beekeeping is so equipment and task intensive hands on activities should not be too hard to come up with. Assembling equipment or demonstrations of such (i.e. plastic vs wax foundations), hive configuration demonstrations through the seasons with actual hive bodies/supers and identification excercises using photos come to mind. Though you can not light a smoker or inspect a hive indoors, 'dry runs' using the steps and props are an option. If you want to get elaborate skill sheets with the steps are highly effective to be in hand for study, go by when practicing or use at home doing it on their own.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Erin, NY /Florence SC
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    I learned with other beeks and also at classes at the National Beekeepers meetings. Excellent videos ( A year in the Life of an Apiary was a top one for me)

    I liked people who taught what they were obviously interested in and were animated presenters.

    If your putting together a course an organized and chronological plan and a theme is good (The 1st year in the apiary, Managing for comb honey production whatever you want the focus to be). A notebook with a some classroom training and some visual aids is a good place to start. Try to think back on all the things we take for granted now that were all new then. Beesuits, different kinds of veils, hive tools, extractors, the various castes of bees, smokers, different type of supers/foundation etc. Include some unusual equipment, all the sights at the hive entrance. Before you put your lesson plan together watch a couple of good videos you liked when you were learning and see what you liked about them. Get your students in the outyard and with a hive you can afford to replace a queen if necessary and preferably is gentle to work. A break in the day to break bread and share stories is always good.

    Most of all keep it simple and fun and have something for the beginners to take home for reference (notbook, hive note cards, bee catalogs) that will give them some thing to think about and use after the class. I alway enjoyed a meal with fellow beekeepers and some momento to remind me of the experiance.

    We all have aspects to beekeping that really interest us, if sharing and teaching is yours that could be your forte and the most rewarding aspect of the craft for you.

    Oh yea, let us know how it goes!
    Last edited by Joel; 01-28-2008 at 05:41 PM.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Tulsa, OK
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    One of the most helpful parts of the beginners course I took was having everybody bring their boxes and frames and putting them together with experienced beeks giving help. I think equipment building day is a must.

    Also, hands on stuff is important, but there needs to be some lecture about the following stuff: different kinds of bees (italians, carnies etc), the life histories of the different kinds of bees (queen/drone/worker), basic info on pests and control, an overview of the beekeepers calendar, extracting.

    Some in the field hive inspections would be important too.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
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    North Alabama, SW Kentucky
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    BEEZZZZ, (And anyone else hoping to conduct a lesson)
    I've noticed that there's a similar problem common to beekeeping classes, outdoor classes, etc... any class where very interested people are standing around a teacher who's demonstrating something in detail. My Number One complaint about these classes/sessions is that the 3 different groups of students aren't managed better. Here are the groups:
    1) People who are very interested and don't care to push infront of other people, thinking only of themselves. (They are found in the front.)
    2) People who are as interested as the first, but have more character than to block others' view or to push past people. (They are found in the middle.)
    3) People who aren't interested at all and who carry on private conversations loud enough to be a distraction. (They are Usually found in the back, but not always.)

    In almost every single experience I've had among countless over a notable 20 years, this is how it plays out. It truly bugs me that those with courteous characters find themselves sandwiched between people with less courtesies.

    One recent exception that I witnessed was at a State Park in Virginia where a demonstration of an old gun took place. The front was roped off, so there was a definative "don't get any closer". Everyone would then be in an even level if the presenter had stepped back 10 feet so the long frontage of people could have seen him better.

    I'm always surprised at how many exprienced beekeepers rush a hive to watch the instructor open it and then all grab at frames to play "Find the Queen!" I don't see how this helps the beginners who are standing back trying to decide what one does when there's an open hive and thousands of flying bees. It always seems like the instructors are playing "just be nice and don't scold them, but this isn't what I had in mind." I'd like to see instructors give more INSTRUCTIONS in the way of: Ok, everyone behind the ropes. Ok, if you've never held a frame of bees before, step forward. Ok, if you've never seen a larvae in a comb, step forward. Something along that lines.

    Sound too West Point? I can think back to my first "beginner's course". I paid as much as everyone else to take the "beginner's course". I spent the whole day standing behind people who weren't beginners at all, who had years of experience, and who really only wanted to learn how to raise queens from this nationally-known queen producer. I never got to see the chalk brood frame. By the time it had passed through everyone else's hands, the instructor was pressed for time and had to stop that demo to move on. That was typical of the whole day. The only time I got to look into a hive was after they had divided us up to look into mating nucs. There I was with no experience, looking into a nuc by myself. Like being tossed in and told to swim.

    As a park ranger, I have to deal with this on a daily basis. I accomplish my goal of getting to everyone who is interested by establishing a boundary and then moving about the group. I literally look for that person who's making eye-contact but is trapped 20-people back. When I'm working a "station" I like to rope myself and my display off, so I have room to work AND to move about the crowd.

    What can you do at a beginner's course? It's hard, I'm sure. Maybe colored name tags to demonstrate who's actually there out of need and who's there just to hang out and be social... Perhaps others here have recommendations on how to solve this. But I do think it is something that needs solved for everyone there to get equal instruction, not just instruction proportional to their egos and pushiness.

    WayaCoyote
    WayaCoyote

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Dane County, WI.
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    A "BAD" beginning course would be one where the "teacher" spoke for 50 minutes and then had a question and answer sesion for 5 minutes. I have experienced one like this recently.

    A GREAT beginning course would be one where the "teacher" spoke for 10 minutes at the most and then had the skill and ability to combine the question and answer session with a complete display of all the equipment involved with beekeeping.

  9. #8

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    I do a beekeeping for beginners series each year. You are welcome to check my website and look under Beekeeping for Beginners. There's a general class syllabus and also lecture notes from the first two classes.
    Regarding the issue of polite vs pushy people. I limit the outdoor hive visit labs to 10 people. Its a small enough group to make reasonably certain that things are visible to everyone.
    I'm not especially fond of the one day short courses. I think its way too much information to try to fit into one session. In fact its really too much to fit into the series I do. Many of the folks who complete the series stay in touch and have ongoing questions.

    I've considered trying to put together an advanced series. Maybe next year.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  10. #9

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    I've been eying this thread for awhile now. I'm going to be conducting my first beginners course this Thu. (every Thur. Jan. 31 - Mar. 13). My assoc. has had one for the last 4 years, and I took it two years ago, so I have some info and techniques to back me up... otherwise I'm green! I found some good info here and appreciate y'all's posts.

    Some things that I missed and liked in the course I took and am making an effort to readily provide in my course:

    1.) A good text. At first I wanted to provide my beginners with Beekeeping for Dummies, but then I found Beekeeping Basics by Penn State, It's a great text and is just as detailed, if not more, as Beekeeping for Dummies.

    2.) Plenty of beekeeping catalogs! They're great. For a beginner they're informative and really get you familiar with what you'll be working with.

    3.) Good demonstrations with a variety of teachers. Not any of our teachers will teach more than two sessions, and they all have excellent beekeeping backrounds! The course I took was run and taught by the same guy for most of it, I think it took a little away from the course...

    4.) Study Guide and References. I've put together a study guide for the participants that they can fill out and reference to throughout the course. I'll also sum up each session with a slide show review (probably at the beginning of the next session as a refresher.) Also I've put together a sheet with helpful info, like books, magazine titles, and websites that can really help our the beginner (maybe we'll get more BeeSource Members too!)

    One thing I forgot was a history of beekeeping. I need to get some info put together before Thur.

    -Nathanael

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Brown County, IN
    Posts
    2,300

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beaches' Bee-Haven Apiary View Post
    2.) Plenty of beekeeping catalogs! They're great. For a beginner they're informative and really get you familiar with what you'll be working with.
    At the beekeeping class that I've volunteered at the last couple years, we STOPPED putting out piles of catalogs. Our experience was that they created a distraction. We were trying to focus on the very basics; beginning beekeeping; natural IPM methods, and once the students started looking at the catalogs we'd get endless questions about "What extractor should I buy?", "How many of these chemicals do I need?", "Do I need a queen marking pen?". Any gizmo or gadget that looked interesting, they wanted to know about.

    Now, I'm a beek and love bee catalogs, and know how much excitement they create, but, for our classes, NOT having them really helped keep the focus on what we were trying to teach.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    White County, Arkansas
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    891

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    I only have one course to compare with and that was sponsored by a local association and conducted by a State Inpector. I was new and still am though I've had bees since July 2005 and I took the course in winter/spring 2007. As a classroom and on-site instructor I had no problems following the class. What I liked was clarification of what I saw in the hives and then speaking with the instructor or experienced sponsored beeks during breaks. Also the slide show had excellent detail and quality to better illustrate what was presented and a question and answeer after each topic. The book 'Beekeepers Handbook' was available for purchase as well as a course outline to help everyone keep focused. As far as the three groups I was tall enough to watch non-hive demos from the back. The loud group was hushed by those that wanted to hear or asked to take it to the hall by other students. The experienced beeks were great and didn't have side conversations during class or demonstrations. On another note that I thought was important, the material was presented OBJECTIVELY. No editing by personal preference of beekeeping style(s), but a good general course that covered only as deep as needed for beginners. When anyone asked about personal style the instructor emphasized that this was his/their way and that we each need to find our own way as long as we stayed in the law. There was supposed to be a day in the field but I had my own to do. We did go long a couple nights but that was due to Q & A.

    Also our Master Gardener course had a short short SHORT exposure to honey bees. I think it was about 1 -2 hours. Which was good exposure for those interested in gardening and needed to know that pollinators are needed.

    But definitely up to date information is a must in any class.

    I just wish one of the associations would start a Journeyman and Master course and maybe coordinate it with the Apiary Section for "unofficial" status.

    I almost forgot there were catalogs available but I believe they were available the last day before we took the course test.
    Last edited by notaclue; 01-30-2008 at 09:22 AM. Reason: forgot stuff

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