Not an Expert? That's Okay.
This past month, Dawn and I were tasked with leading a program about native bees coupled with a “build your own” bee house workshop. This event was to take place during pollinator week which is an annual celebration that supports pollinator health through different activities and through education. Although pollinator week celebrates all organisms that move pollen from plant to plant, our program was to focus specifically on bees that are native to New Hampshire and mostly solitary bees that would be using the bee hotels that we made.
Going into this program, I was confident in my abilities to make the bee house, but I wasn’t as confident in my ability to teach about native bees. I knew some of the basics, like which bees were solitary and which were social bees, and I knew that honeybees are the only bees that
make honey, but I didn’t know much about the life cycle of solitary bees or many of their behaviors. My lack of knowledge made me nervous that I wouldn’t be able to articulate to the group proper and useful information about our native bees.
To feel prepared for leading a program on native bees, I started doing some research and Dawn found some really helpful resources as well for the both of us to look through. I spent quite a bit of time reading, googling, and watching videos about our native bees. With the reading and researching I had done, I felt really confident in the knowledge that I had going into the program. However, when I got to the program and started teaching, I realized that I didn’t have all of the answers to people’s questions. I was feeling like I had failed these people because I was supposed to be able to answer their questions about a topic that I was teaching them.
Upon doing some reflection, I realized that I can’t possibly know all of the answers to all of the questions about a topic that I’m not an expert on. Native bee information is not my specialty, and I would never claim to be an expert on any topic, but especially not native bees or pollinators. For me, it’s important to be able to communicate the information that I know to
others. One of the most important roles of an educator is to help others find the resources they need to further educate themselves on a topic after giving them some of the basics on the topic.
In my experience, there are a lot of assumptions that educators need to have all of the answers to all questions, but that’s not a realistic expectation. Especially for educators in the environmental field that are teaching many different subjects. However, we can give others the resources they need to learn more and become experts themselves. It’s not a bad thing to say “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I can give you some resources that might have the answer”. In fact, the best educators are honest and open about the fact that they are not experts.
The experience that I had with working on this bee program taught me a lot about who I am as an educator and who I want to be as an educator. To help you all learn more about native bees of New Hampshire, I have created a resource page with links. Just click the button below.
Wild Bee ID is an app that can be downloaded on your mobile device and can not only help you identify bees, but it can also help with identifying bee-friendly plants!
iNaturalist is an app and webpage that you can create an account, upload photos of
any living thing and get suggestions about what it might be. Scientists and researchers help with identification and use your observations for projects.
Seek is an app by iNaturalist that helps to identify species too.
The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America's Bees Paperback – November 24, 2015; by Joseph S. Wilson (Author), Olivia Messinger Carril (Author)
Common Native Bees of the Eastern United States: Your Way to Easily Identify Bees and Look-Alikes (Adventure Quick Guides) Pocket Book – April 5, 2022. by Heather Holm (Author) (Smallest guide)
Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide Paperback – February 2, 2017; by Heather N. Holm (Author) lots of pictures
Common Bees of Eastern North America (Princeton Field Guides, 123) Flexibound – September 21, 2021; by Olivia Messinger Carril (Author), Joseph S. Wilson (Author) - very
scientific and specific
Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies Paperback – Illustrated, February 26, 2011; by The Xerces Society (Author), Dr. Marla Spivak (Foreword)
Vermont Center for Ecostudies online guide: https://val.vtecostudies.org/projects/vtbees/all-genera/
Pollinator Partnership website (www.pollinator.org)
Pollinator Pathway website (www.pollinator-pathway.org)