Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

The Humble Bumble of the Bee



I was working in a centre one morning and happened to observe an interaction between an educator and a preschool-aged child. He is about 5 years old and heading off to ‘big school’ next year. This particular morning, the child had just shared with his regular educator something important that had happened.  He had seen a bee in the garden. He was telling her how he had touched the flowers and watched the bee. I could see the shine in his eyes and the excited crinkles in their corners.

The educators however responded to him with “You need to be very careful. You should never touch bees. If you see a bee you should move away from it. Bees can be dangerous and they can hurt you. You shouldn’t have touched the flowers. Next time you should walk away and leave the bee alone.” It continued along these lines for what felt like a very long time.

The educator at a later point talked to me about her “intentional teaching” and how she felt it was important to teach the children about the world and to tell the child to leave bees alone. I asked her if the child had an allergy to bees and she said no.

I have worked with this educator before and I find her quite challenging to work with. I think that she is very closed minded and I often see her exercising intellectual power over children under the guise of intentional teaching.  

What I saw was a lost opportunity. I saw so much teaching and learning potential not harnessed.  

I felt so sorry for the child. He had just shared an important discovery – a treasure – with his educator and she berated him for it. She lectured him in the dangers and harms that this creature could cause. Yes, I know that bees can sting. Yes, I know that some people and children have allergies to them. I’ve worked with such children and yes, nature, gardens and flowers can pose a risk. The National Quality Standards encourages us to take risks. Should a child have an allergy to a bee sting, they should certainly be encouraged to manage this risk and make wise informed choices. The Early Years Learning Framework encourages us to form strong connections with nature and with our world and environment. Children need to learn about the world around them and feel connected to it, and they need to learn to manage risk themselves.

How can we do this when nature is off limits?

My heart broke for that child in that moment. I observed his body language. I looked at his face. He looked sad and rejected, the light left his eyes and the smile left his face. His shoulders went lower and lower and lower the longer she talked at him. She certainly wasn’t talking to him or engaging in a conversation about bees. She was lecturing in a position of belittling. She stood over the child in a definite position of power. Telling him what he had done was wrong. I can still hear her weeks later in my head. What can he still hear in his own head? What is he still feeling? Does he look at bees the same way?  Does he still revere a natural life or does he view it as a possible threat? I was merely a bystander, a witness, an observer. He was the receiver of the message. Who is he now, because of how she chose to speak to him?

And what of the missed opportunities? I love bees. If there were no bees, there would be no flowers, no plants, not fruit, no vegetables, indeed there would be no food. There would be no food for the animals, nor would there be food for the animals that some people choose to eat. Our world would fall apart and slowly unravel if it were not for the humble little bumble of the bee.

Where do bees come from? Where do bees go? What do you think bees are going to do with the pollen? I wonder what the bee is thinking? Do you think the bee is watching us as we are watching her? What flower would you like if you were a bee? Would you like to see if we can find some ideas about bees on the computer? How about we draw the bee and our garden? We could go and get some paper and a clipboard and pencils and draw our bees? I will be gentle with the bee because I know they have stingers and I don’t want to get hurt …

I would have loved to talk to the child about the bee. I would have marvelled with him over the engineering genius of nature in designing such an invaluable creature. I would have gone with my little friend to the garden, settled myself at its edge with him and pondered the flowers and the bees and whatever else should flutter, fly or crawl our way. I would have encouraged him to take photos, draw, paint, collage and construct what we saw. We could have written stories about bees and gardens. We could have done so much.

That would have been my intentional teaching path. The other educator’s ‘intentional teaching’ was that of judgement and lecture.

My heart broke that day. Why didn’t I intervene and support the educator in understanding intentional teaching a bit better? Well, I have previously offered support and guidance and my efforts were met with aggression and resentment, both to my face and behind my back. She knows what intentional teaching is and that is telling the children about the world and what the children should know. What can you do, when you are only there for a short time and the person is convinced that they are right and you are wrong?

At the end of the day, what harm was done?

Jeanne de Clisson

©  Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates  2014


6 comments on “The Humble Bumble of the Bee

  1. Aunt Annie's Childcare
    March 1, 2014

    There are a lot of people working in childcare- and indeed in teaching generally- who enjoy the position of authority to an unhealthy extent. Getting them walking the plank at swordpoint seems an option, don’t you think?

  2. ecmangreg
    March 1, 2014

    Perhaps that educator needs a sting or two.

  3. Lynnette Hartley
    March 2, 2014

    So, so sad. Where has her sense of wonder and amazement at our incredible world and how each intricate part works. She could have made her ‘intentional teaching’ woven among their discovery road looking at bees, how they live, where, pollen’s, honey. Such a terrible waste to have these sort of ‘Educators’ teaching the children

  4. Robyn
    March 2, 2014

    I work in FDC and had a couple of children a few years back who were fascinated by bees. Together we learnt how to safely catch them, study their anatomy and pollen sacks then release them. I like to think this curiosity and respect for the world around them will continue to grow because of the approach I took at the time.

  5. greenvolcanolady
    March 5, 2014

    Mmm! Maybe she has been somewhere before and had children stung by bees. I know in my backyard over the last three months we can’t walk outside (without shoes) because of the ‘drunk’ bees lying on ground waiting to be stepped on. Still love tree and bees but just need to wear shoes. I don’t agree at all with how she handled the interaction but there could be issues behind it. Hopefully she will get over one day. Maybe you could bring a poster into the room about life cycle of plants and quietly have a chat with said child letting him know that you share his views and wonder. There are plenty of people out there who do and would love to share with the child :.)

    • Lin
      May 2, 2014

      So frustrating.
      I also had a recent incident with the topic of children and bees. The kinder has a large gum tree that was flowering and lots of bees could be seen high up in the canopy busily do their thing. The following session I caught a bee from my veggie patch and had it with the flower it had been visiting, in a large container. This container is very difficult to open and close, it takes adult brute force. I know some children can surprise you so for added care I duct taped the lid closed as well. As well as keeping a vigil on the container that remained on an observation table in the centre of the room.
      The children where so excited about being able to safely look at a bee up close. I had magnifying glasses for even closer observation. Clipboards and pens for drawing their obs. Gave the perfect moment to discuss safety around bees, their behaviour, where to find them, their importance in the garden and touch on the fact that some people can have very serious allergies to bee stings. Fantastic all round learning opportunity.
      Later that day I was told by the Director that she was uncomfortable with a bee being inside the kindergarten. That we had a duty of care and that it was too risky.
      I did make a further inquiry as to what is the legal stance on studying a live bee, to Victorian Schools Animal Ethics (
      Who replied that they liked my passion but the Director has the ultimate responsibility for the children’s safety.

      I was disheartened.
      One centre I worked in had their science table with insects in Epoxy resin. To me that is a dead animal. Not respecting what the animal is about at all.

      I have a science degree in Biology and have lots of experience and skill with creatures big and small. I would in no way jeopordise children’s safety. The learning that was happening was astounding. The boys in particular that do not usually choose to do drawing, where making the most amazing scientific sketches of an insect. There was definitely a ‘cool’ factor in this activity.

      I still think informing the children about these and other animals is a much better way to go than to tell the children to stay away from them or to just ignore them. We model phobias to animals instead of nurturing their interest in nature.

      what do you think?
      I will persevere, just gotta find a ‘perfect container” with a guaranteed child proof lid…
      Hmm any ideas?

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