Anthropology major Kelsie Martinez was one of the Binghamton University students who volunteered to create “What’s the Buzz? A Honey of an Exhibit!” at the Discovery Center in Binghamton.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Discovery Center exhibit explores the life of the honeybee
May 1, 2014Tweet
Kelsie Martinez had a “minor fear” of honeybees growing up, but she hopes that her work in a new museum exhibit helps today’s kids (and their parents) understand that bees aren’t something to fear, but rather something to appreciate.
“I would hope for people to understand how multifaceted, interesting and important honeybees are to humans, not just today but throughout time,” said Martinez, a graduate student in anthropology. “There’s a very deep-seated relationship between humans and these insects.”
Martinez was one of 32 Binghamton University students to help create a new exhibit at the Discovery Center called “What’s the Buzz? A Honey of an Exhibit!” The exhibit, which explores the life of the honeybee and the many ways in which it impacts society, opened to the public on April 26. Students from a wide range of majors came together to build the exhibit, touching on the role the honeybee has played culturally throughout time.
Why bees? Asked to come up with a multidisciplinary exhibit to celebrate the museum’s 30th anniversary, Donna Jones-Wright, assistant director of the Discovery Center, who had just recently acquired three hives for her home, instantly turned to the unassuming insect.
“We’re trying to take a simple insect that children all connect with,” said Jones-Wright. “They understand it on a level of ‘be careful; bees sting.’ We want children to look at bees with a new light. We want them to be inquisitive. We know that it stings, now why does it sting?”
With limited funding, Jones-Wright reached out to Academic Internship Program Coordinator Laura O’Neill, who put word out on campus and helped get 18 interns to start (most site supervisors have five interns at the most). Students in this unprecedented internship have been dedicating approximately eight hours a week to the research and development of the exhibit’s many modules. This experience, said O’Neill, has been invaluable to students.
“They’re getting an incredible amount of hands-on experience,” said O’Neill. “They’re learning professional development, career development, networking. Something like this can lead to a full-time job, to a great letter of recommendation for either grad school or a full-time job elsewhere, too.”
One student who benefited from this hands-on experience is Matthew Jones, a senior mechanical engineering major who worked on a module called “Flight of the Honeybee” for his capstone project. The module, which illustrates the unusual rotation of the honeybee wing that allows it to hover, gave Jones and the five other members of his team some much-desired practical experience.
“When we get into an actual job, we have to design things and build them and have a schedule and budget,” said Jones. “This is actually putting what we know into practice.”
Distilling complicated research into something that the average child can understand was a challenge, said Martinez, who built a timeline mural to show major historical interactions between humans and bees. But doing so informed her own research, which focuses on the social aspects of learning.
“I started to think more about how certain types of information can be communicated in different ways and to different audiences,” said Martinez. “For my own work, it’s helped me take a step back and think how I’m portraying to different audiences outside of professors and the department.”
Andrea Marzilli, a junior geology major who began work on the exhibit in September 2013, hopes that the concepts explored in the exhibit’s science section, like colony collapse disorder and the medicinal benefits of honey, are simple enough for visitors to comprehend. Bees are too important too ignore, she said.
“It’s a really important subject right now for everyone to know about,” said Marzilli. “We can’t survive without bees, and I think a lot of people don’t recognize how important they are to us as humans, let alone the environment. It’s important for kids to learn young something as important to our society as this.”