School for the Deaf hosts state agricultural education training | Local News

School for the Deaf hosts state agricultural education training | Local News

Beekeeping will be a new endeavor for many agriculture teachers across North Carolina in the coming school year.

For Reid Ledbetter, agriculture education teacher at North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, it is an opportunity to use the experience he has gained over the past seven years to help teachers across North Carolina prepare for a new challenge.

In response to a North Carolina State University grant, NCSD opened its doors on Wednesday, July 13 to 14 agriculture teachers from across North Carolina for a one-day in-service training on the basics of beekeeping. The grant will provide $1,500 for local FFA chapters to start beekeeping programs at high schools across the state.

Facilitated by Ledbetter, the workshop accommodated participants from as far away as Pamlico County. It featured sessions on building hive boxes, inspecting hives, processing and tasting honey and making beeswax products.

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“The name of the workshop was ‘Bees and Bee Products,’” he said. “We made soap, we made lip balm and we made candles.”

Every session of the workshop was built around hands-on training for the participants who take their new skills back to their classrooms across the state. During the hive inspection portion of the program, everyone involved suited up, broke out the smokers and performed a hive inspection under Ledbetter’s supervision.

“We divided up into three different groups, queens, drones and workers – that’s the three bees in the hive,” Ledbetter said. “We went through a list of things that helped the teachers know what to look for inside the beehive – identify the drones, identify the workers, look for the queen and know the parts of the hive.”

During the workshop, Lewis Cauble, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services apiary inspector for Western North Carolina, also gave a presentation on hive inspection and services offered by state inspectors, Ledbetter said.

During the afternoon sessions, participants used NCSD’s honey extractor, which spins the honeycombs around, allowing the honey to drip to the bottom of the machine so it can be collected and bottled. At the end of the day, Ledbetter hosted a honey tasting and each participant left with a partially built beehive box and a jar of fresh honey.

Ledbetter was first certified as a beekeeper while working as an agriculture teacher in Scotland County in 2014. He said that while he has only achieved the first level of certification, he has gained most of his knowledge of bees through first-hand interactions with master beekeepers.

“I hung around with my master beekeeper who taught the class,” he said. “I followed him around for about three years, helping him on Saturdays and learning about bees.”

Ledbetter came to NCSD in 2017, where he has been passing on his knowledge and love of beekeeping to his students.

Ledbetter said beekeeping is a great program for many of his students because it provides opportunities for hands-on learning experiences. He said it also gives his students opportunities to see projects through from start to finish by making, packaging and selling honey and beeswax products at local farmers markets and through other outlets.

“We bottle it, we label it and it’s to the point where if they’re wanting to start their own enterprise, they can start their own,” he said.

Ledbetter believes involving his students in every part of the process is important because they get to see the real-world results of their work.

“Anytime you start to do something with students the first question you get is, ‘why are we doing this?’” he said. “I don’t have to tell them why. We go through it, and they can see and experience why we’re doing this when they follow it all the way through.”

Ledbetter also said it’s important to provide students with a variety of educational options because it helps them find what they are interested in.

“You see a student who is not interested in anything and then, all of the sudden, you show him this thing about bees and how amazing they are and now he’s interested,” Ledbetter said. “That motivates him to read and to improve his academics. It’s just a small part of our program but it’s a very important part.”

The “Bees and Bee Products” in-service training was developed by the state of North Carolina, with three local businesses providing additional financial support — Carolina Farm Credit, Burke County Beekeepers and Rossman Apiaries.

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