Bee-kind and Bee-friend Bees: July/August 2020

Missouri Environmental Education News
July/August 2020

Dear MEEA Members,

The planet seems so turbulently alive right now. Added to the ever-present specter of climate change, we also feel our vulnerability to virulent pathogens. In the last 6 weeks, we have also seen a widespread acknowledgement that our nation’s ideals can’t be realized without making Black Lives truly matter. We understand better than ever that there can be no sustainability without equity. There’s so much to do and that can be daunting. Yet, I’m feeling pretty hopeful because so many life-affirming things are happening in MEEA right now as we embrace the challenge and the promise of the current moment.

First, I find so much hope in our efforts to center equity within MEEA. I’m thrilled that we acted on our values and hired a black-owned business for our logo design project. I’m glad the Board met last weekend and set some work in motion to better align our policies and practices with our values. We’ll start by drafting a statement outlining MEEA’s values around diversity, equity, and inclusion and assessing our current practices through that lens.

I’m also encouraged by the current growth of our organization. Interviews started today with an amazing group of applicants for our Missouri Green Schools VISTA positions. And, just last week, we hired Nick Speed as our MGS Outreach Coordinator! We are so happy to welcome Nick to the team, and for the leadership he will provide for the VISTAs. The Missouri Green Schools Committee also grew in the last month! Several new members joined the committee after the June MELAB meeting and really hit the ground running. All this new energy being infused into Missouri Green Schools certainly makes me feel hopeful.

We also have the very uplifting project that is underway to distribute 6300 EE Kits to families this summer. In addition to the 18 organizations that have come together to support this project, Traci Jansen and Laura Seger deserve a huge thanks for helping organize the logistics of this endeavor! Through a food relief program at 10 St. Louis County Library branches this summer, we are providing outdoor learning kits to help families hit hard by COVID find some solace nature. There is growing interest in expanding this project to help more communities, and you can donate to support that effort at

Another heartening collaboration taking place is between MEEA and the Kansas Assn for Conservation and Environmental Education. MEEA and KACEE are connecting across state lines to co-convene one virtual fall conference for both organizations. We are so excited by the opportunities emerging because of this. Please take 5 minutes to take the planning survey to help the Conference Committee best meet our members’ needs this fall.

To top all that off, the website committee has kicked it into high gear, hoping to launch the new MEEA website in time for the conference! Hope is energizing, which is a very good thing, because there is A LOT happening at once in MEEA. If you’re in need of some energizing work with like-minded people, there is always room for another helper on our committees. Seriously, we could use your time and talents! However, if what you need is some self-care, I hope you claim that time and space.

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director


Welcome to Nick Speed!

Nick is joining MEEA as the new Missouri Green Schools Outreach Coordinator! This is a part-time, temporary position at the moment, and we’re thankful to NAAEE for granting us the funds to bring Nick on to provide dedicated time to MGS partner and school outreach. Nick has a passion for urban agriculture, youth empowerment, and has plenty of EE experience from his time as a Gateway Greening educator. He is also the Founder of Ujima, a nonprofit service provider that creates equitable access to food, education, and employment. Ujima has been in existence since 2018, and continues on its journey towards food justice and environmental stewardship.



Bee-kind and Bee-friend Bees

by Erin Graves

MEEA Board Member and Science Teacher at Herculaneum High School

Welcome summertime! This is the time for those great summer picnics with summer favorites like watermelon, apple pie, and garden fresh salads, or even some of our regular favorites like chocolate, french fries, coffee, almonds, salsa and guacamole and pizza with that zesty tomato sauce. Does any of this sound good to you? If you said “yes” – THANK A BEE! These wonderful efficient and effective little pollinating experts are out and about again this summer making these and many other foods possible. In addition to how important bees are to our food supply, they also play an essential role in a healthy environment. So let’s learn more about these pollinating superhero’s!

Bees aren’t just about honey

Because they’re so small, bees can sometimes be invisible to people who miss the larger connection of their importance to food production. According to the Missouri Conservation Department, Missouri has over 450 different species of bees that support our agriculture and economy. Farmers rely on a diversity of bees to pollinate their produce. In the United States, bee pollinators have a national value of more than $30 billion annually. They’re responsible for 75% of food production worldwide. One-third of our calories and about 75% of our nutrients come from bee pollinated produce. (FAO, 2019) Even meat production relies on bees, since some plants grown to feed livestock, like clover and alfalfa, depend partly on bee pollination. While we would probably survive in a world without bees, our existence would be more uncertain and our diets dull and much less nutritious.

Bees are important to the environment

The buzzing insects are also vital to a healthy environment and play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers, seeds, nuts, berries, fruits and other plants that serve as food and shelter for many creatures big and small. Also, bees are a great symbol of nature and act as an indicator of the state of the environment. By observing the health of bees, it’s possible to determine changes in the environment. Their presence, absence or quantity tells us when something is happening in the natural environment, and can let scientists know what corrective measures need to be implemented (Zidan 2017). Finally, bees also help maintain many of Missouri’s native wildflowers like coneflowers, asters and clovers which contributes to perhaps the bees simplest action of creating lovely floral landscapes and beautification of the planet.

Bees are in trouble

Population numbers of bees are declining at alarming rates due to a combination of factors such as loss of habitat, exposure to pesticides and effects of climate change. First, scientists believe the loss of habitat has reduced the bee population by 40%-60%. (Otto, 2018) Every piece of land that’s developed is land that’s no longer a viable habitat for wildlife. Fewer flowering plants relates to fewer bees. Next, use of pesticides has been linked to a phenomenon called Colony Collapse disorder where bees leave the hive and never return again. Pesticides affect the bees nervous system and they seem to lose their sense of direction. Pesticides also affect the bees immune system making them more susceptible diseases and parasites. Beekeepers report losses in their hives of 30%-90% believed to be due to pesticides. (Tucker 2019). Finally, as global temperatures rise, bees are losing places where they can survive and habitat ranges for bees are shrinking. According to research, bees may not be able to adapt to climate change by shifting their habitat like other insects, (for example, butterflies who can easily migrate). Also, bees are in tune with natural cues so their pollination activities are all about timing. If temperatures continue to shift, bees and plants may become out of sync. (American Beekeepers Association. 2019)


Photo Credit: Lesli Moylan


What can we do to help bees?

The Planet Bee Foundation lists these ways we can help the bees.

  • Plant native plants: Most native plants bloom all season and can help increase bee populations.
  • Mow less: Research shows mowing every other week increases bees by up to 60%. So relax this weekend and let the yard grow!
  • Use natural pesticides: Use natural (and more economical) alternatives for your garden like neem oil or a making a detergent based pesticide of 2.5 tablespoons of DawnⓇ dish soap, 2.5 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 gallon of warm water, placed in a spray bottle. (
  • Plant bee friendly gardens: Bees love color, especially shades of blues, purple, yellow and white. Bees also prefer flowers with large landing pads and easy access to pollen and nectar, such as sunflowers, coneflowers and bee balm.
  • Buy organic: Pesticides affect the health of bees. According to the USDA, organic products must be grown without the use of prohibited fertilizers and pesticides that could affect bees.
  • Don’t harm bees: Most bees don’t sting and when they do, it’s typically in defense. If you come across bees, let them go about their business and they’ll leave you alone. (If you do get stung by a bee, make a paste of baking soda and apply a thick layer of the paste to the affected area. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes to help relieve the pain, itching, and swelling).
  • Educate others and spread the awareness: Help spread the word. Together we can save the bees!

Now more than ever….. Interdependence means different species relying on each other. For example, bees need flowers and the flowers need the bees. Humans need bees, and now more than ever, the bees need our help. Bees are amongst the most important insects to humans on Earth. We need to recognize the connection between the continuance of providing the food everyone needs and the conservation of these wonderful little buzzing insects. So bee-kind and bee-friend bees!


Otto, C.R.V., 2018, Assessing the impact of the Conservation Reserve Program on honey bee health: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2018–3082, 2 p., Why are bees important

Why Bees Are Important to Our Planet, Jessica Tucker; May 2019;

Missouri Conservation Department; Our Need For Bees; Peg Craft; Sep 18, 2017;

Židan,Dejan; The World Bee Day project and Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, upon the proclamation of World Bee Day on 20 December 2017;

United Nations Food And Agriculture Organization, April 2020;

American Beekeepers Federation; How Climate Change Is Hurting The Bees, June 25, 2018;

Planet Bee Foundation; May 2020

Four Family Fun Bee Activities (and a Lesson)

contributed by Erin Graves

  1. Build a Bee Hotel
  2. Make a Bee Bath
  3. Plant a Bee Garden
  4. Read Bee Books

Lesson Plan

Subject: Bees

Grade: 3rd (lesson can be modified for younger or older students)

Preparation: 30 minutes

Time Needed: 5 lessons (approximately 30 minutes each)

Standards: Missouri Science Curriculum, Grade 3: Growth and Changes in Plants

  • 1.1 assess ways in which plants are important to humans and other living things, taking points of view into perspective and suggest ways in which humans can protect plants
  • 1.2 assess the impact of different human activities on plants, and list personal actions they can engage in to minimize harmful effects and enhance good effects
  • 3.6 describe ways in which plants and animals depend on each other
  • 3.8 identify examples of environmental conditions that may threaten plant and animal survival

Objectives: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand that bees are integral components of the life cycle of many plants
  • Identify ways that human beings harm bee populations
  • Identify ways that human beings can help bee populations to be more successful


See all the activities and the Lesson Plan


Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in July and August!

  • July
  • August

    What to Look for Right Now – MDC’s dynamic list of What’s Out There Now!


    • Kudos to all of us trying to make a positive difference every day. Take a moment and offer yourself gratitude!

    MEEA News

    • People Team
      • Memberships – We changed to a calendar-year membership from the previous rolling annual membership. You can always receive our newsletter for free, but with your yearly dues comes access to EE certification, eligibility for mini-grants, and the satisfaction of helping inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. Get your 2020 Professional, Institutional, or School membership today at!
      • MELAB – MELAB met in June, the 2nd of four meetings focused on growing the Missouri Green Schools Partner Network. Partner surveys will be sent out this month; email if you’d like to participate in the MGS Partner group and/or survey.
      • Outreach
        • Welcome to Nick Speed as MGS Outreach Coordinator!
        • The Website Committee continues to make progress. A test site is currently being developed, and we are hoping to have it launched in time for our fall conference.
      • Partnerships
    • Purpose
      • Conferences – The 2020 Sustainability Institute for Educators in St. Louis has been postponed until June 2021 in St. Louis; theme is “Equity and Justice in A Changing Climate”. Check the SIE website (above) to see theme-related resources between now and June 2021. The 2020 MEEA Conference will also be changing this year to a virtual format. Details pending, stay tuned.
      • Missouri Green Schools –
        • Welcome new committee members Erin Graves, Jamie Kisela, Chris Nobbe, and Lynne Scott to the MGS Committee!
        • Candidates currently being interviewed for 4 MGS Support VISTA positions.
        • The Missouri Green Schools committee has been hard at work for several months developing the achievement criteria and benefits of the MGS program. The draft is almost complete and ready to share!
        • Our MGS Consultants (GMMB, Blackrock Consulting, and Institute for the Built Environment) are hard at work helping us develop foundational messaging and training elements to support MGS program expansion.
        • We are ready to start enrolling schools that have 60% or greater Free and Reduced Lunch Program eligibility into MGS and provide extra 1:1 support for their green goals. Email Lesli Moylan to discuss!
      • MEEA Mini-Grants – No updates right now.
    • Resources
      • Accounting – MEEA received $8500 in funding and yet-to-be-calculated in-kind support for the EE Kit project. It’s amazing that we were able to quickly and collaboratively amass the resources needed to curate, assemble, and distribute 6300 outdoor learning kits. MEEA also received its second disbursement of funds from MFH for the 3-year MGS expansion project.
      • Fund Development – The Advisory Board will convene its first meeting on Wednesday, July 15.
    • Governance Team
      • Board of Directors – Lucy Herleth stepped down from the board in June to focus on her new full-time adventure as a nursing student. We will miss Lucy’s EE insights, but so glad she was able to serve! Karen Keck is also embarking on an incredible adventure. Karen will be spending a year teaching north of the Arctic Circle, in a small town in Alaska. She’s stepping down from the board, but is planning to share her first hand experiences with us in the newsletter and on our website. We are so excited to learn from you, Karen!
      • Advisory Board – At the March board meeting, the Board of Directors voted to adopt bylaws to create an Advisory Board. This board will exist to help ensure that MEEA devotes plenty of energy to longterm strategy, since the members of the Board of Directors all sit on at least one committee and spend a considerable amount of time “in the weeds”. Meredith Spiekerman-Byers is heading up the formation of the Advisory, with plans to hold the inaugural meeting Q3 of 2020. You can view the bylaws here. They were written to provide flexibility of focus for the Advisory Board, depending on MEEA’s fluctuating needs. To start, the Advisory Board will focus on guidance related to fund development.
      • Administration – We have created regional segments for our membership list. If you’d like to receive updates specific to your region as they arise, please update your county information at[UNIQID]

    Coming Up in the Next Two Months

  • Conferences and Meetings details here
    • June 11, 9:00am to 11:30am–Missouri Green Schools Partner Network Meeting, statewide Zoom meeting of organizations engaged in environmental and sustainability education, health and wellness, or educational equity. Open to all who want to be part of the growing network of partners who think that every Missouri child deserves a green education. RSVP at and we’ll send you a zoom link. We need RSVPs to assign people to breakout rooms by region.
    • July 29-July 31 – Natural Start Alliance’s Nature-Based Early Learning Conference- ONLINE –
    • October 13-14, Research Symposium; October 14-17 Conference – NAAEE 2020 in Tucson, Arizona –
    • Missouri Coordinated School Health Conference – Healthy Partnerships for Healthy Students – December 3-5, Columbia, MO –

  • Workshops, Events, and Online Resources
    • See the MEEA Workshop page at for many new online opportunities. From NAAEE’s weekly webinars to Grow Native’s prairie webinars to a webinar on the basics of composting, you are sure to find something you want to dive into!
    • You can also find MEEA’s evolving list of useful resources during the pandemic.
    • If you’d like for your organization’s calendar to be referenced for our monthly updates, please contact Lesli Moylan.

(These count for Environmental Educator Certification categories 1, 2 or 3. Visit the EE Certification page here)

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