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Local nonprofit makes connection between honey bees and music

By Demetrius Dillard | 8/7/2020, 6 a.m.
Beyond the Natural Foundation (BTNF), a local nonprofit based in southwest Baltimore, has recently provided a unique educational experience for ...
Campers in white protective suits with camp coordinator Yorell Tuck (left) and Robert Levine III (right), founding executive director of Beyond the Natural Foundation Courtesy Photos/Sandy Arnette

Beyond the Natural Foundation (BTNF), a local nonprofit based in southwest Baltimore, has recently provided a unique educational experience for some of the youth in its music program.

On the morning of July 28 2020, a small group of middle schoolers from BTNF visited a local apiary at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship Church to examine colonies of about 120,000 honey bees. Students put on protective clothing and got an up-close look at the bees while learning the crucial value the insects have on the environment.

As the day transpired, apiarist (beekeeper) Bill Castro led the educational activities as he constantly emphasized to the students not to be afraid of bees, but to have a healthy respect for bees.

Apiarist Bill Castro holding up a beehive in the apiary at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship Church in Baltimore.

Courtesy Photo

Apiarist Bill Castro holding up a beehive in the apiary at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship Church in Baltimore.

“What I do try is to provide an opportunity for the kids to be exposed to honey bees, and what the benefits are; but not only honey bees but all pollinators— could be wasps, hornets, bumbles and all the multitude of bees that live in and around Maryland,” said Castro, the founder of Bee Friendly Apiary.

Thanks to honey bees, humans can consume diverse ranges of fruits and vegetables as a result of pollination, added Castro. Following the 20-minute beekeeping session at the apiary, BTNF students went indoors for honey sampling to conclude the lesson for the day.

One of BTNF’s foundational principles is providing expressive therapy outlets and engagement opportunities through music. The program’s summer music camp serves youth in the second through seventh grades, and is led by Robert Levine, the founder and executive director of BTNF.

One may wonder what connection music has to bees. Levine, one who is quite familiar with various elements of music, made the perfect correlation.

“We tell our kids music is life, and in order to really understand the totality of life and to understand the totality of creation as it relates to bees, the honey bees in particular, their lives are based on working and building so that we ultimately have food to eat,” Levine said.

“So it’s great to be able to make that connection for our children so that they can understand everything in our creation is connected, it’s dependent on each other so it just helps them understand more about their lives overall.”

Levine said he hopes his campers came away more informed about nature and bees, and not to be so consumed in the common belief that the insects are innately harmful creatures.

Bill Castro holds a jar of honey from a beehive for a BTNF camper to sample.

Courtesy Photo

Bill Castro holds a jar of honey from a beehive for a BTNF camper to sample.

Kenneth Andrews, a rising eight grader at Beechfield Elementary/Middle School, was one of the participants. He is an aspiring computer scientist and pianist.

Before the learning experience about bees, Andrews said he didn’t know they could be so calm. He expressed how much he enjoyed learning about honey bees, saying that was the best educational activity he has had at the camp thus far after being informed on the immense value of and essence bees.

“I didn’t know bees could be so calm, I thought they just stung you for no reason,” said Andrews, who has been in the BTNF summer program since last year. “Today has to be the best because I was afraid of bees and I was allergic to the poison that they give when they sting you, so this has to be the best day.”

Through BTNF, students grasp the art of songwriting, production and audio- engineering as a platform for positive self-expression. Also, the program aims to promote campaigns such as anti- bullying and anti-violence.

BTNF also provides musical instruments and scholarships for qualifying students. The organization can be followed on Instagram at btn_foundation and on Facebook at @btnfoundation. Learn more by visiting https://www.beyondthenatural.org/.