What’s the buzz about bees?

Junior George Frees has been a beekeeper since he was 7 years old. He’s now co-teaching an Honors College course where students get an in-depth look at how to care for tiny pollinators.

Dec. 7, 2023

George Frees has shared his bee expertise with a variety of audiences across Missouri over the years. He’s a member of the board of advisors for the Boone Regional Beekeepers Association and a beekeeping project leader for Sustain Mizzou. His latest foray is into teaching through the University of Missouri Honors College.

A junior biochemistry and plant sciences double major, Frees is co-teaching an Honors Seminar about beekeeping with Bethany Stone, a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biological Sciences.

“It’s really incredible that the Honors College is allowing me to step into this role and is supporting my passion,” Frees said. “Honors students are so dedicated, and it’s been amazing to work with and alongside them in this role.”

Frees, a Stamps Scholar, began caring for bees at Mizzou before he officially became a Tiger. Occasionally, he would fill in for his older brother Henry, who previously led the beekeeping club on campus. Once Frees made the decision to come to Mizzou, he took on a larger role.

“A staple of the Honors College is providing students with exceptional experiential learning opportunities,” said Catherine Rymph, dean of the Honors College. “While it is typically faculty who are offering to share their unique expertise with honors students, it’s exciting to see George step into that role.”

Frees worked with Rymph, Stone and Rachel Harper, an associate dean in the Honors College, to make the class a reality. Stone provides faculty oversight and lends guidance with course structure and teaching methods. Frees and Stone prepare lesson plans together and share responsibilities, something that Stone said she has enjoyed.

“I love that George is taking something that he saw as a void on campus and filling it,” Stone said. “He knows there is a lot of interest in this topic and looked at how he could provide information to help others. This is such a creative and exciting way to provide that instruction.”

The weekly seminar includes 12 honors students who learn about the importance of bees, how to care for them and how bees are portrayed more broadly, like in literature. Safety protocols are also discussed as the students have their own opportunity to beekeep.

Working with Stone and helping lead the class has also created a new interest for Frees – one that he didn’t foresee when he began this journey.

“I never thought I would be interested in teaching as a career, but I’ve really enjoyed this experience,” Frees said. “It has sparked a desire to pursue a university teaching position in the future. Whatever happens, I do know that this has been beyond rewarding in so many capacities.”

Read more from the Honors College

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