Zig Zag

Zig Zag Choreography: Moving with Bees

We inherit the outdoor compost bin that the children from the previous year have gifted us. With the compost we also take up the practice of adding scraps for future life. Children and food scraps travel to the compost bin several times throughout the week.

Each day we bring a bowl of scraps, we notice that the scraps don’t live alone. Bees, flies, bugs, worms, and fuzzy mould also share the lively communal space. Every time we open the composter lid to add the scraps from the classroom, we encounter a new inhabitant.

“There are too many bees.”
– Cameron

“Just stand like a statue.”
– Lola

“The bees live in the
composter because it’s dirty.” – Emmanuel

“I think the peels are their
home.” – Cindy

“Bees die when they go in the
beehive.” – Emmanuel

“The bees are checking out the food scraps.” – Don

“Maybe they are going to eat them.” – Pierre

The frenzied movements of bees catches our attention. They are fast and we have difficulty following their path.

“The bees fly really fast!”, says Cameron. “The bees do a zig zag every day! – Don observes, – Bees fly like this: bzzzzz”.

The bees fly frantically in and out of the food scrap bucket and composter, inviting conversations among the children. The children wonder how to move around the bees, where they come from, and what the bees are doing in the compost.

We invite the children to think with and embody the flight of the zig zag as a way to pay attention to bees.

“A zig zag is up and down.” – Pierre

Bodies jump and twist , run fast, and skip high.

Don and Cameron bend down and tuck their heads to do somersaults round and around.

As we project a video of moving bees on the wall, we move with the bees, zig zagging around the classroom. “This is how a bee jumps,” says Cameron. Lola offers: “My sister knows how to draw zig zags. You go up and down.”

To intensify the embodied zig zag movements, we invite the children to draw them. As pencils touch paper and the children trace the bees in the projection, multiple zig zag stories emerge and become alive.

“The bee is on me!
I can’t make them move on the paper when they’re on me.”
– Cameron

Some zig zags move diagonally, some move vertically, some move horizontally, and some combine directions. Some move fast while others move slow. A zig zag choreography emerges.

“I’m doing up and down.” – Cindy
“We’re drawing with the bees.” – Emmanuel

We invite children to retrace the movements to attend to the singularity of each zig zag. This requires slow and careful work, paying attention to how each line was created.

Markers make zig zags. Zig zags quickly become flying bees. “I’m doing circle zig zags”, says Cameron, “It’s not a circle, it’s a bee.”

Zig zags also acquire speed. The fast zig zags exert high energy and are frantic like the bees when we lift the lid off the compost.

“Zig zags are fast!” – Cameron
“They zig zag really slow.” – Joe

To bring to life the bees that emerge in the drawings, we introduce Charmaine Lurch’s Wild Bees. We notice that each bee is different in Charmaine’s sculptures. The children give names to the bees.

We invite the children to create bees out of wire as a way of conversing with Charmaine’s work and returning to their drawings. The children struggle to twist, pull, pinch and hold the unfamiliar material.

“Cindy’s pinching it with her fingers.” – Lindsay
“I don’t know how to make a bee.” – Don
“I’m making a slow bee.”
– Cindy
“Make the green bee.”
– Don
“How do I twist it?”
– Roberto

The protagonists of the bee stories

The story of fast bees

“Fast bees go really fast, like
zzzzzzzsh !” – Don
“Lots of flyers help them fly so fast. They need 3 wings.” – Cindy
“They have 3 wings!“ – Cameron
“Eat every fruit and every fruit scrap” – Cindy
“Has lots of flyers. Five of them” – Roberto
“3 wings so they can fly good” – Cameron
“3 Hands and fingers” – Pierre
“It has 3 eyes” – Cindy
“It is a fast bee so has lots of flyers and 5 isn’t a lot so it needs 10 flyers” – Don
“Pineman is only for fast bees and it makes their belly not sore. It’s a circle when it’s not fed and a square when it’s fed” – Don

The story of slow bees

“The slow bee doesn’t move fast like the fast bee.” – Cameron
“One flyer and they go slow. They need two wings on each side.” – Cindy

Moves in slow motion
Is quiet
10 flyers
Lives in the garbage, the beehive, and the compost
Takes little steps to move
Extra muscles to go extra slow
Has fingers (13 on bottom, 11 on top)

“A slow bee goes very,
very slow” – Cameron
“A slow bee is in slow motion. It’s when people go super, super slow” – Cindy

The story of slow bees

“It is the up and down bee. It flies
up and up and up.” – Don

The Story of Bad Guy bees

Inspired by our
previous work with
Charmaine’s bees the
children bring wire
bees into conversation
with drawing to tell the
story of the bees.
Through storying,
more kinds of bees

“We need to make bad
guy bees. We need 100″
– Cindy

To think with the bees and their specificity we sketch a collective drawing.

“A bad guy bee is a small circle”
– Pierre

“2 arms so that they can get the food scraps” – Cindy

“They have a stinger that’s really big like the wings” – Darius

“They have a force field” – Don

The bad guy bees become the antagonists of the story and start to threaten the existence of the compost bin.

Choreographies with wire bees

We return to the zig zag
drawings with the wire
bees. The wire bees zig
zag through our map
and follow our markings.
Circles and lines, up and
down, fast and slow
Soon the bees jump off
the map to search for
the compost bin.

“They need to zig zag to the compost bin. I want to take the green bee to the compost. It moves the fastest.”
– Don

We bring the fast bee, the green bee, and the slow bee to the composter, using their fast and slow zig zag movements.

“They have to be stuck under
the compost because they’re
still eating.”
– Don

The wire bees stay buried in the composter for a few days before we dig them up and bring them back to the classroom.

We speculate with stories about the lives of the bees in the compost.

“I’m flying!”
– Roberto

“A bee is coming!”
– Don

Bodies and wire bees come to life as they zig zag in and around the classroom scrap pail. As we elaborate the story, the narrative turn towards the composter as a dwelling place for bees.

“We have to bring them to the compost bin.”
– Cameron

Bees Zig Zagging

We draw the stories of the bees and the compost.

The bees zig zag through the paper

One other protagonist with special power emerges: the camouflage bee. The camouflage bee moves the story…

Quickly we notice that the camouflage bee would make the compost bin invisible to all the other bees. Another twist to the story turns up.

“This is the fast bee and slow bee’s compost, and these guys are breaking it. The bees come just in time to save the day!” – Don

“We need to hide the composter from the bad guy bees.” – Cameron

“This is the camouflage bee. We need to camouflage it.” – Don

As the other bees zig zag around the composter, the camouflage bee tightly zig zags over the composter and hiding it from sight.

“But now no bees can find the compost” – Cindy

Experimenting with the concept of camouflage, Cindy offers an alternative idea: “Cover it with paper”.

“The bad guy bees will have their own compost.” Darius

“It’s a rectangle.” – Darius

“It has holes in it for the bees to go in.” Pierre

However, the children suggest that these holes are blocked.

“The bees can’t get in these holes because they’re blocked by all the food scraps” – Don

We think about how the blocked holes stop all the different bees from zig zagging in and out of the compost bin.

“The bees can’t get in the holes because the food scraps are blocking them” – Don

“We need an excavator” – Adam

“They can still get in the holes at the top” – Don

The fast bees, the slow
bees, the green bees and
the bad guy bees come
together to zig zag in and around the bad guy bees’ composter.

“The bees are in the bad
guy’s home” – Don

“They’re having a dance
party” – Cameron

“This bee is coming too.” – Cindy

The bad guy bees zig zag to the composter and land on the ground by its blocked holes, waiting. “See, down here, it’s broken”, notes Don. Cindy offers, “The bad guy bees broke it, here, see!”


Through this inquiry, children attend to the complexity of bee movements. Enacting zig zag stories offer multiple ways to make visible the relational process of collective liveability amongst difference.

As an ecological community, the food scraps, children, and bees (amongst many other species) are in constant movement. By engaging with and through the intricacies of these dynamic movements we rethink care as deeply relational processes.