About the book:
The plot centers on a seventh-grade science competition and a group of friends who face personal as well as classroom challenges as they attempt to raise honeybees on a hotel roof in New York City. Information about the ecological role of bees in the food chain and the mysteries of a potentially devastating syndrome called “Colony Collapse Disorder” is woven into the various adventures and discoveries of “The Bee Team.”
This guide references Common Core State English language arts standards for 4th , 5th , 6th, and 7th grades. See links at bottom for more specific information.
BEE TALK, BEFORE READING THE BOOK:
Do your students know any backyard beekeepers? If so, do they have any ideas about what beekeeping involves?
Have any of your students ever been stung by a bee? Do they know that it is usually not a honeybee that stings them, but more likely a wasp, hornet, or yellow jacket?
Assign students to find three news articles in the media describing the dangers that CCD pose to bees, the environment and us.
DISCUSSION OF “BEES ON THE ROOF”:
A: Key Ideas and Details (Common Core standard):
Describe the book’s main theme or themes. For example, is the book mainly about four seventh graders and the challenges they face in school? Is it about honeybees? The environment? Cake making?
Pick one of the characters and describe how he or she changes over the course of the book’s nine months. What influences are behind these changes?
Sam is reluctant to tell his friends the reason for his move to Manhattan. What is behind that reluctance? Why does he finally decide to tell his friends the backstory?
What role does food play in this book? Does it act as a catalyst for action? Does it help more closely define any of the characters?
Why is there a chapter on Matt getting stung by a bee and requiring medical attention? What are the motivations behind this plot element?
How is the hotel’s roof important to The Bee Team?
After reading this book, how do you feel about honeybees and their role in our environment? What specifically did you find surprising, important or admirable about honeybees? Did you think Sam’s passion for them was over the top?
Topics for debate: Stage a debate about the different approaches to beekeeping. One side – in favor of organic beekeeping – must argue that beekeepers should never use pesticides of any sort around their hives. The other side – non-organic – must argue the opposite: that it’s okay to use pesticides to kill off hive invaders, like mites and parasites, despite possible injury to the bees.
The book includes several instances where the main characters resort to lies in order to get what they want. For example, Sam pretends to be his father when sending out resumes; Sam and Tristan lie about needing help from a university student on their science project. One side of the debate should support the use of lying when, as Sam says, “the end justifies the means.” The other side should disagree, and cite reasons for their viewpoint.
Further discussion/debate ideas: Matt retaliated against Reed during the bake sale by squishing a pie in his face. Was this an appropriate way for Matt to behave? Could this have been considered a violent act? Debate both sides.
Reed attacked Ella in the janitor’s closet the previous year. Ella never reported it to the school. Was that the right way to handle this situation? Debate pros and cons.
Ms. Carlisle said she wouldn’t report the Robots R Us team for what The Bee Team said was cheating. Were her justifications for this decision defendable?
In the chapter about Matt’s bee stings, discuss who was responsible for Matt getting stung. Paul Miranda? Ron? Matt? Matt’s parents (for example, should they have wondered about a possible allergy given the amount of time he was spending around bees)?
B: Craft and Structure (Common Core Standard):
The author presents two very different personalities in her descriptions of Matt and Tristan. How does she get those differences across? Do those differences become more or less pronounced as the plot develops?
Sam, Ella, Tristan, and Matt call themselves “The Bee Team.” is this a good choice? Why, or why not? Think of two other names – preferably bee-related — that would have also been good choices.
Can you think of examples where a physical characteristic helped you better remember or understand a particular character?
How is the Robots R Us team a typical group of bullies? How are they different from bullies that you read about or might have experienced in your own class? Do you think Reed’s parents have some responsibility for his behavior?
C: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (Common Core Standard):
In writing environmental fiction, the author needs to balance the narrative with the science. Does this author strike a good balance, or is there too much – or too little — information on honeybees and Colony Collapse Disorder? If too much, does it slow down the story? If the right amount, how does this knowledge advance the plot?
How does the information about bees and CCD relate to problems that could end up directly affecting your lives? In other words, if bees start to become extinct, how would your lives change?
The book briefly dives back into the 19th century. How does this device help advance the plot?
Visit a nature center where apiarists demonstrate how to calm bees (most likely by smoking them), remove honey from the hive, and – with the help of an extractor — separate the honey from the honeycomb.
Create teams and assign each one to find three videos of bees in action.
Many people are campaigning to save the bees and raise awareness about CCD. Ask teams to come up with a slogan for these campaigns.
Bring in four different kinds of honey and explain what flowers or trees they came from. Ask the class to taste each one and describe their differences.
The author uses specific physical descriptions and habits to add to our understanding of the characters’ personalities. There is, for example, Tristan’s massaging of his scar, Matt’s habit of leaping to his feet when getting out of a chair, Reed’s constant neck swiveling, and others. What is one physical characteristic you notice in yourself that would make you a good character in a book?
Pretend Nick could bake a cake in any shape. What shape would you choose for yourself? For your two best friends?
Work with a team to come up with a different ending for the competition and then for the action that follows.
Draw a picture of what you think a beehive might look like. (Hint: There is no right answer.)
Explain why or why not you would want to become a backyard beekeeper.
Find 10 words in the text that relate to bees and beekeeping, and write a definition of them.
Write a four-line poem about bees!
For more information on Common Core, see below: