School Daze for Miss Russell

Sorry kids, but here in the northern hemisphere, we’re getting close to the new school year. (Was that a chorus of parents saying Yay! I just heard?) So I thought I’d make another mention of the study program that two great Middle School teachers put together based on The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.


As Jake and Katye say:

This unit breaks A Beekeeper’s Apprentice into six sections, and was originally taught over the course of seven and a half weeks.  Each week, students were expected to complete a vocabulary unit, read a nonfiction piece from the time period, write an essay or piece of fiction given the nonfiction piece, and complete a comprehension packet.

These two (and their students!) did a really impressive piece of work, a fabulous resource for anyone wanting a richly textured way to use The Beekeeper’s Apprentice as a foundation for a teaching curriculum. They’ve built vocabulary lists, comprehension quizzes, and exams, and other sections of the project open doors to student research on early 20th century history, women’s studies, and an assortment of other themes. There’s even a teachers’ packet, which is as free as the student packet is (although for Teacher Packet, you’ll need to email Jake and Katye, since it gives all the quiz answers!)Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.42.45 PM

44 states in the US have adopted the Common Core standards as a guideline for teaching students from elementary to high school levels. As the Common Core page says, the standards are:

  • Research and evidence based
  • Clear, understandable, and consistent
  • Aligned with college and career expectations
  • Based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills

In other words, they’re an attempt to challenge students, not just drill them preparing for exams. And since teachers are free to approach it any way they want, these community efforts are essential.

The Beekeeper’s Common Core is an ongoing project, so let us know what you think of it. If you use it (either in a class or in some other way) please tell us how things went, and what suggestions you’d have for changing or adding to the program.

One of those areas under construction is the nonfiction supplemental section of the curriculum, aimed at giving students primary source material on which to base study units. Included in this version of the study packet are such diverse essays as Manners and Rules of Good Society: Or, Solecisms to be Avoided; Trenches at Vimy Ridge; To The Members of The Women’s Land Army; Gypsy Lore; Syria and the Holy Land; and Chess-Humanics. We’re in the process of adding to those, so, if you’ve found any early videos, letters, journals, photographic collections, and the like that teachers of Middle School students might find helpful to illustrate and explore areas touched on by Beekeeper, send them to me, and I’ll add them to the list.

Read about Jake and Katye’s project here, and you can download the Common Core study unit itself here.

And another generation falls into love with Mary Russell!


  1. Merrily Taylor on July 30, 2015 at 5:39 am

    This is a terrific project – wish I’d gotten to read BEEK when I was in middle school (with us it was either “Julius Caesar” or “Great Expectations”).
    I wonder if they have thought about showing the new verson of “Testament of Youth” to the classes as part of the curriculum? I understand it’s very good and it certainly brings WWI down to a very personal level.

  2. Catharina Jacknow on July 30, 2015 at 7:50 am

    This is exciting! I can’t believe I never thought to use this book in my class before. I will suggest it to my advanced 5th and 6th graders this year. (They get to pick the books, so I can’t assign it!) We do a lot of project-based learning and don’t have to follow common core, so maybe we can try a little beekeeping ourselves. And, since I also teach Latin, maybe we can read some Virgil while we go hiking! Alas, we have no downs, just woods. Who knows whom we might meet?

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