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Bee hives used to treat eating disorders among pupils at Ellern Mede School in Mill Hill
Bee hives are being used for the first time to help children with eating disorders develop a positive relationship with their food.
The Ellern Mede School, in The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, used lottery funding to rent an allotment plot and buy bee-keeping equipment for up to ten new hives.
Pupils at the school, aged between 11 and 18, suffer from conditions including anorexia and bulimia and receive treatment at the neighbouring Ellern Mede Centre.
Headteacher Adel Shirbini is hoping a hands-on approach to growing food and watching its development will help treat their fears.
He said: “It is about living biology, growing plants, sustainable environments and of course, the children’s relationship with food.
“The number of children suffering from anorexia is increasing and it stems from their relationship with food. If we encourage them to see it grow, pick the food, touch the food, it is different to just seeing it on a plate.”
A bee hive in the design of a house has already been built at the Lawrence Street Allotments, where plots have been marked out ready for planting in the new year.
As well as tending to the bee hives under staff supervision, students will be encouraged to grow strawberries, raspberries, potatoes and beans.
Mr Shirbini said: “The sweet stuff is easier but the children often find it more difficult to deal with the savoury foods.
“It is usually quite traumatic for them to be sat in front of a plate that they find difficult to approach.
“These children have a poor relationship with food and we want to develop and build upon this by doing something a little bit outside the box.”
Bees will be moved into the hive in February, with plans to add more to the apiary later in the year.
The £7,000 funding will be spent on between five and ten bee hives, extractors, bee suits, smokers and hive tools.
Mr Shirbini, who is a bee keeper himself, says he is not aware of any other school in the country using the insects to treat the disorders.
He added: “I have a passion for bee keeping and I want the children to have the interest and excitement of going into a hive and picking out a frame full of bees and honey.
“It is the experiential part of learning that we want to introduce and I think they will really benefit from it.”