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Buzz Worthy

Why Oakland Museum of California’s new eco-conscious exhibit will be the bee’s knees.


Rolan Coville


How do you stress the crucial role that bees—whose numbers are rapidly and disturbingly dwindling—play in our ecosystem to kids who’d rather get stung than listen to grown-ups talk about crop yields and pesticides?

For the curators at Oakland Museum of California, the answer was simple: tacos.

You see, without enough pollinators, there’d be no way to grow tomatoes—hence, no salsa. Same thing with avocados—no bees, no guac. Bees are the catalyst for agriculture, and that’s the idea behind all of the flip-up graphics and bee-centric menus inside the Bee Diner, one of several interactive parts of the museum’s newest exhibition, Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact, through September 20.

“We want kids to draw the connection between the food they’re eating and the bees that pollinate it, in a really visual way,” says Sarah Seiter, the museum’s associate curator of natural sciences. The exhibit also includes people-sized beehives to climb on, beekeeping suits to try on, tips from real-life kid beekeepers, and guides to plan and build your own backyard bee hotel.

Seiter says the museum wants to encourage young people to get involved with bee health. The exhibit has partnered with outside research ventures, including the Great Sunflower Project, an organization that asks citizen scientists to upload their own data on bees online.

“Other parts of the museum work really well for adults,” Seiter says, “but this is a sort of special kid-friendly exhibition.” museumca.org.

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