Waggle Dancing, the Universal Language

“How do you feel today?” I always start my classroom visits with this question. Typically I’m met with a resounding chorus of “HAPPY!” or the occasional “I have to pee!” but lots of squeals and laughter none the less. My presentation to the entire elementary school at the Indiana School for the Deaf a few weeks ago went a little differently. I asked the room of about 100 kids and teachers to tell me how they felt, and they all began signing at once. My American Sign Language Interpreter turned to me and said, “I’m seeing a lot of happy’s.” Then, just as I always do, I asked the group to tell me once again how they felt, but this time by dancing. And we all danced together.

Why do I do this? Because bees dance to communicate, of course. And it’s just plain fun.

My ASL interpreter stood by my side and signed as I spoke to the students. She also flapped her wings, rubbed her belly, and conveyed every emotion I mentioned during my hour-long talk about the importance of bees. 

One little boy in the front row shot his hand up and signed a question to me, his hands frantically forming a crown on top of his head. He asked, “If there’s a queen bee, does that mean there’s a king bee?” Great question. I had to break the news to him that not only is there no king bee, but the male bees inside the hive, drones, get a lot of flack for not doing chores around the hive. And they don’t even have stingers.

The School for the Deaf, with students ranging from toddlers to high schoolers, is just one of at least six schools getting a hive this spring as part of our Save the Bees Indiana initiative (thanks to a Sustain Indy grant.) The School for the Deaf’s hive will sit in their raised bed vegetable garden and pollinator garden in the middle of their campus, next to the high schoolers’ dorms - in fact, the high schoolers will be in charge of looking out for the bees on a daily basis. These schools will have a front row seat to the incredible service that bees do for us, pollination, and can incorporate lessons from the hive into any subject’s curriculum - science, math, nutrition, even literature.