Mark Douglas, co-founder of BEE1, introduces pupils from Ysgol Hendrefelin to their new beehive.
Whenever Plumbwise installs a Viessmann boiler locally, the customer has the opportunity to select a Neath Port Talbot school to receive a beehive package worth £1,500.
As well as a dedicated beehive and beekeeper, the package includes a host of educational resources such as lesson plans, videos, experiments, books, interactive talks and beehive demonstrations.
Most schools in the county borough have signed up to the scheme and 11 beehives have been installed since the project launched in June. The aim is to install all 54 hives by the end of this year, before expanding to other parts of the country from 2020.
Shaun Hutchings, founder and director of Plumbwise, explains: “Viessmann boilers are some of the most efficient on the market, and beehives are nature's most efficient home, so it's a natural fit.
“Bees are now an endangered species, as well as being vitally important to our survival. Our beehive package is really popular with schools because it helps them to offset their carbon footprint and achieve Eco-School status, as well as to deliver aspects of the national curriculum in a different and exciting way. The children absolutely love it and the feedback we're getting is amazing.”
Mark Douglas, co-founder of BEE1, says: “We are delighted that both Viessmann and Plumbwise have adopted our school eco scheme as it demonstrates that both multinational and local companies can collaborate to make a real difference to our environment, our communities and our schools. We are particularly pleased with this partnership as all companies involved have similar ethical, environmental and community values.”
One of the latest schools to benefit is Ysgol Hendrefelin, a co-educational residential special school for pupils with a wide range of disabilities and learning difficulties.
Ryan Duford, deputy head of Ysgol Hedrefelin, said: “We've been working with the children to develop their understanding of the importance of bees in today's environment and ecosystem. We're very grateful for the opportunity that this will give the children for their outdoor learning and firsthand experiences of nature.”
The beehives are installed and looked after by the not-for-profit arm of environmental consultancy BEE1 on a farm in Neath. Each hive is branded with its school's logo. BEE1 has partnered with Cardiff University to develop bee-related teaching resources in English and Welsh, which are delivered to participating schools via a dedicated website created by the university.
In addition to the teaching materials, children are encouraged to plant 'beebombs' – balls of bee-friendly wild flower seeds – and make reusable sandwich wraps from cloth and beeswax. They also have the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills through jarring, labelling and selling the honey.
Each hive generates between 20-40 jars of honey per year, as well as pollinating around 200 million local plants. From next spring, cameras inside the hives will allow children to see the bees at work.
Graham Russell, managing director of Viessmann in the UK, said: “Viessmann is a family business with a strong commitment to protecting the environment and looking after future generations, so this initiative is very much something we were keen to support. It benefits everyone.”