‘Bee’ the change: New Miami musical teaches kids importance of saving planet

MIAMI – Data shows more and more young people are worried about the state of the planet and are becoming a lot more engaged in conservation efforts.

A South Florida educator channeled the eco-anxiety being expressed by her students, and created a new musical that premiered this week at the Adrienne Arsht Center to teach school kids the importance of standing up to save our environment.

It’s a high-energy, dance-fueled, hip-hop extravaganza that packs a powerful planetary punch and comes with a pressing message.

“Miami is a city that is facing some environmental changes,” said Jairo Ontiveros, VP of Arts, Education and Community Engagement at the Adrienne Arsht Center. “And caring for our environment is something that I think is so important to our kids and to their future.”

The Adrienne Arsht Center is taking that conversation out of the classroom and onto the stage with the fully immersive new musical, “The Busy Bee’s Great Adventure!”

It’s the story of four bees traveling through time, trying to save the planet from pollution and climate change.

Arts educator Ashlee K. Thomas got the idea for the show during the pandemic when her middle school students began asking some serious questions about all the problems our natural world is facing.

“So through challenges that were happening, these four bees began to talk to us in the show,” Thomas said. “They can feel what’s happening, they are concerned about their future. You can see young advocates stepping up about their environment, and also challenging us to ask us the hard questions about how you all are going to leave this planet for us.”

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Thomas channeled those conversations into dialogue and wrote the book for her production, one that the Arsht Center commissioned and turned into a musical.

“The idea of environmental literacy and caring for your environment hits home with these kids, because we’re taking them out of the classroom and into their community,” said Ontiveros.

It’s something seen consistently at local clean ups: children of all ages are always on the front lines, trying to fix the mess we adults are leaving behind.

“Some people don’t care,” said 8-year-old Brandon Rodriguez. “People don’t care about throwing away trash, some people don’t. (But) they should care!”

Through humor, music and dance, the bees teach the kids that there’s still time to turn things around and make things better.

“Our world involves all of us, and with all of us we need to be able to take care of our world together,” said actor Isabel Tucen who plays “Bumble Bee” in the production.

Local 10 News was there when 1,700 third- and fifth-graders from the Miami-Dade school system were bussed in into the magical world of the Busy Bees. A few of the kids were even brought on stage to help teach the audience how to properly dispose of waste and how to recycle correctly.

“The kids, when they were picking up after the show, they were like, ‘No mom, that doesn’t go there, that goes in recycle, you can’t throw that in the trash,’” said Tucen. “So it’s a way for them also to get up on their feet and try it themselves.”

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Some of the kids spoke to Local 10 News and said they left the show inspired.

“I learned about not leaving the streets and the places dirty, and taking good care of the places,” said 10-year-old Gia Ramirez.

“We should reduce, reuse, refuse and recycle,” said 10-year-old Jimmani Branton, adding that doing those things are important “so the earth won’t be doomed in the future.”

Added Tucen: “There is hope. The lots of hope. We all just have to come together. And that’s it. I make a change little by little, a little wee bee that lives for six months made all this change on stage today. So imagine all of us.”

By the end of the two week run, over 20,000 students from Miami-Dade Schools, including public, private and even home schooled kids, will have the opportunity to enjoy “The Busy Bee’s Great Adventure” at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

The goal is to bring it back next year and also open attendance to the general public, and scale it so that touring productions can also perform it for other school children across the country.

For more information on “The Busy Bees’ Great Adventure” click here.