Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tips for Presenting to Classrooms (Children)

Here's some tips which I hope you will find useful when doing presentations to children.

Don't ask open ended questions to the group at large. For example, "Who has been stung by a bee?"

A question like that can work well with adults but with children it creates a bit too much free-for-all. Instead, instruct the students to "Put your hand up if....." This keeps more control in the classroom and stops them from shouting their answers all at once.

With children you will find you also have to tell them "put your hands down" or they'll keep their hands up through your whole presentation.

Don't forget to let them know right away that there are no live bees with you today. Many children are afraid of bees and so this reassurance right at the beginning will help set them at ease. If you have an observation hive you can explain that the bees can't get out.

Young children really love to help out, so don't hesitate to involve them. They can add sounds like buzzing bees or puffing ("puff-puff") to imitate the smoker in action. They can buzz louder when the hive first opens--I take an empty hive and act as if it's full of bees.

If you involve them with actions it's important to first explain what the start command and stop commands will be. For example, "Buzz" for buzzing like bees and "Stop Buzzing". Or snapping the fingers to give a stopping signal. If you don't do stopping signals the children will probably buzz or puff through your whole presentation.
In the grade 6 class we thought that we'd get only 1 volunteer to try on the bee gear (hat and veil). In fact, three quarters of the class wanted to try them on and about 3 boys even stayed back after the session to try on the gear because they didn't get chosen as volunteers. Always offer - there may be shy classes or less volunteers as the children get older. In this case, the kids were in their regular class so they were very comfortable.

Note - photos are great but don't run to post them on the Internet without first checking with the school. Most schools have signed parental forms to indicate whether it's okay to post their child's photo on the web. (And that's why there's limited photos showing here... sorry about that).

I printed colour photos of bees and taped them into frames. When held, they actually look like frames of real bees from a distance.

The fastest way to get interaction is to let the group control the direction of the presentation discussion by answering their questions. This works equally well for adults. Answer their bee related questions and add a little more information in a mini lecture style, but be brief. The replies will often generate another 10 or 15 questions almost immediately.

Remember, you can't know everything. It is not shameful or wrong to say that you don't know what the answer is or you're not 100% certain. Offer to look up the information later and get back to them with the answer.

Due to allergies and health concerns, you probably won't be permitted to let the children taste honey so the best you could do is have some samples or photos to show the different colours of honey. Instead I took advantage of smell and let the kids smell the beeswax, the wax foundation frames, the pollen and even the smoker.

Younger children have a hard time resisting touching honey combs and are likely to cause some damage. These would be best put in a clear plastic container so the temptation to touch when they've been asked to only look is taken away.

Both children and adults want to talk about stings because unfortunately it's usually their most common experience with bees... although wasps or hornets are more likely at fault for their bad experiences. This is a great opportunity to clarify the term "stung by a bee" and to talk about the differences in temperament and diet between honey bees and wasps/hornets.

After a presentation it's wonderful to hear children report that they're no longer afraid of bees.

Let me know how your presentations go. I hope these tips are useful to you.
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