by Beth Bailey and

Sarah Chambers

Our Grade 3 students engage in an extensive energy unit encompassing math, science, innovation, creativity, and technology. 

The unit begins with lessons about static electricity. The students create both series and parallel circuits, using battery bulbs and wires. Later, they incorporate switches, as well. In a series circuit, all of the components are connected end to end, forming a single path for current flow. In a parallel circuit, all of the components are connected across one another, forming two sets of electrically common points.

Grade 3 students Dia Rahbari, Leah Muisus, and Brooklynn Anderson

Students learn how batteries act as a voltage source for an electrical circuit and that they have internal resistance, which causes their voltage to drop when they are under load. Using a multimeter, a tool that can measure both electrical voltage and current (and other things, like resistance), students can test the batteries for voltage and create their own resistor using a graphite pencil. They also test objects for conductivity.

This study leads to a robust discussion about where the energy we use in our homes and at school comes from, including learning about power plants and fossil fuels. Students uncover the pros and cons of using fossil fuels and study alternative ways of producing energy, such as solar, geothermal, hydro, and wind energy. A visit to The Commons allows students to view firsthand different forms of energy that are used and to track the energy produced at Harley compared to the energy spent.

Most years they also take a trip to the Irondequoit Imaginarium, a two-story, 9,000-square-foot net-zero-energy education center for art and science. Its huge windmills, solar panels, and water wheel demonstrate energy resources in action. And the Imaginarium’s interactive display board, which is like the one at Harley in The Commons, shows the intake and use of the energy sources in the building.

Students design and build their own solar, wind, and water models using K’Nex building toys, as well as create solar lamps, wind blades, and solar chandeliers driven by a solar panel that is connected to Grade 3 classroomsout of materials in the makerspace.

By the close of the unit of study, students have learned what energy is and how different forms of it are produced, the negative effects of using fossil fuels, and what the cleaner alternatives are.  



by Beth Bailey and

Sarah Chambers

Climate Club was founded during the 2019–’20 school year and is open to all Middle School students. Additionally, it partners with the Upper School Sustainability Club. So far this year, they have teamed up for a “penny war” to help raise money for reusable silverware for school lunches. Not long after Climate Club formed, the group needed to adapt to working together virtually, which they are continuing to do during the 2021–’22 school year.

They meet online during Middle School Day X, roughly every nine school days, when students don’t have formal classes. That way they can have cross-grade interactions, since when the students are physically at school, the different grade levels are kept separate for COVID-related safety purposes. 

“Members are really excited to see classmates from different grades,” said club advisor Sisi Chen. “Not only do they have a shared passion bringing them together, but there is the added bonus of seeing friends they don’t get to see much right now.”

Mady Anderson, Grade 8, shares a Middle School Climate Club project: making a reusable bag from an old t-shirt.

This year, their main project so far has been to put together a bulletin board in the Middle School hallway with information about different ways to recycle, reduce, and reuse. They have featured examples of how to upcycle clothing, demonstrated how to make T-shirts into reusable bags or cleaning rags, as well as provided information about composting.

Club members are also discussing how to improve composting at Harley and in the larger community. Right now, COVID is necessitating changes that are creating more waste in our lunch program, and Climate Club members are brainstorming ways to address this.

The students are passionate about helping the planet and working with their classmates to come up with creative ways to do so. For example, one student repairs his own computers to reduce waste by replacing only the failing components and continuing to use the others, instead of buying a whole new machine; another student has helped raise money for the World Wildlife Foundation. By sharing their knowledge and resources, the club members are collaborating as a group while practicing valuable skills such as teamwork, organization, prioritization, and creative thinking.




by Olivia Woodring ’21

as part of her Senior

Capstone Project on

Communication Careers

What’s the buzz in the Upper School? Despite the impediments of social distancing and health protocols, hands-on learning experiences are continuing to be made in the Intro to Beekeeping course taught by Lisa Barker, Harley’s Food and Farm coordinator. In this class, students are introduced to the fascinating anatomy and life of a honey bee. While it seems that most students are spending countless hours behind a computer or seated at a desk nowadays, Intro to Beekeeping has revolved around student engagement and physical experiences, providing Harley Upper School students with new ways to collaborate, learn, and get involved with class lessons. Students are expanding their knowledge of bees by sporting beekeeping suits, getting outside on the roof, and working with Harley’s personal bee colonies. Whether it be studying bee behaviors or extracting honey, students in Lisa Barker’s Intro to Beekeeping class are getting the unique and collaborative “Harley Experience.” 

When Lisa began working at Harley in 2017, she knew very little about bees, yet her job as the Food and Farm coordinator came with a nerve-racking requirement: standing in as the beekeeping assistant for Harley’s hives. Lisa says that she was “very overwhelmed and intimidated by it” at first, not wanting to make a wrong move and harm the bees in any way. After her first year at Harley, Lisa decided to learn more about the bees by taking workshops, training, reading all she could, and watching videos regarding the subject, soon finding herself “fascinated and in love with it.” According to Lisa, “not only is there so much to learn about bees themselves, but they tie into so many bigger pictures related to pollinator health, the food system, the way that everything is interconnected within our ecosystem, climate change, and so many other things. So, the idea of creating a whole class around that seemed like a logical way to grow that part of our program.” Three Upper School students in Lisa’s Food and Farm class began to express interest in the bees as well, helping Lisa see “what a valuable part of an academic program a bee class could be” and ultimately igniting Intro to Beekeeping.

Lisa Barker and her students, working with the Harley bees

The class was put into action the third trimester of the 2019–2020 school year (in the spring), and it has continued throughout this school year, making online learning and the “hybrid” approach to schooling an interesting start to the class. Lisa says that she “never would have imagined teaching the class over virtual sessions,” yet she still found a way to make this hands-on and highly interactive class live up to its expectations. One of the first groups of students Lisa took out on the roof to work with the bees included the three students who inspired the class. The students beamed, saying it was “empowering.” Lisa says that “seeing what an impact it made on those three students stood out to me as something that would be worth building on in the future.”

What specifically do the students do with the bees in Intro to Beekeeping? How do they stay safe? These are key questions. Lisa says that the class spends a lot of time learning and partaking in safety training on how to approach the colonies and work alongside them, avoiding any injuries or personal anxieties. Each student is provided with a full beekeeping suit and gloves to ensure safety for all. Smoke is also used, “triggering a pheromone” and creating “a response within the bees, telling them not to sting.” Students even practice beekeeping with Lisa on an empty hive set up inside the classroom before they head up to the roof to interact with the active hives. Lisa also discusses ways to “mitigate and prevent the sting,” explaining that bees can indeed sense agitation or nervousness in humans. Bees only sting in dire situations, like needing to defend their colony from danger, since honey bees die after they sting. It proves important for the students to understand bee behavior to guarantee personal safety while working with the bee colonies.

A student in the class, Josie, discusses her experience with Intro to Beekeeping: “All of us [students] felt so comfortable [working with the bees] … I was just so excited to just get in there and work. … My favorite parts about the class were interacting with the bees, saving a small bumblebee from the water, and extracting honey … it was such a fun process.” Josie was also fascinated to learn about various pollination methods and how bees have two stomachs, which factors into how they make honey. Delighted by her experience, Josie says she would “definitely take this class again. … I would love to work with the bees more … and I would really love to learn more about bees because there is so much to learn about them … I could take this class for years.”

Lisa says she loves “seeing [the students] observe the bees” and watching them “get to do something they have never done before, learn so much, and feel empowered.” Learning about the colonies, structures, and importance of bees in our food system has not only taught students scientific and life facts related to bees, but also how to respect these creatures and be aware of one’s surroundings. Intro to Beekeeping is a hands-on, collaborative, and fun class that diverts from the basic school subjects, offering new opportunities and ways to learn for Harley’s Upper School students.