Youth Beekeeping - Entrepreneurship - Building a National Model

Final Report for YENC14-079

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2014: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Manager:
Jennica Skoug
Community GroundWorks
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Project Information


  • Project Duration: January 2014-December 2015
  • Date of Report: December 8, 2015


The Youth Beekeeping & Entrepreneurship: Building a National Model grant took place at the Goodman Youth Farm, a program of Community GroundWorks in Madison, Wisconsin. The Goodman Youth Farm facilitates hands-on organic farm experiences for over 1,000 youth annually. These youth include K-12 students who visit the farm on spring or fall field trips, as well as middle and high school students who visit regularly during the summer. Using our half-acre urban vegetable farm as an outdoor classroom, students are engaged in activities such as planting and harvesting produce, planning and preparing garden-based recipes, and packing and delivering fresh food to the local food pantry.  The farm is also home to two active beehives. 

In 2012, SARE funded a Youth Beekeeping Pilot Program at the Youth Farm, where students began learning the craft of keeping bees with help from a local bee expert. While youth were involved with the bees, we hoped to strengthen the program by giving it more structure. In the Building a National Model grant, our goal was to expand the beekeeping program in depth – by formalizing lessons and including an entrepreneurial component – and in breadth – by using the program as a model to teach other educators how to begin youth beekeeping initiatives of their own.


  • Develop a program model for three levels of student beekeepers: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. This program model will include lessons and hands-on activities at the hive, as well as creating value-added products from honey and beeswax.
  • Help youth share what they learn about beekeeping via a presentation at an annual educator’s tour, as well as a demonstration for younger students.
  • Help youth create value-added products from the hive. Use funds from product sales to help sustain the beekeeping program financially. Donate 5% of value-added products to the local food pantry.
  • Hire and train a beekeeping-focused intern during the 2014 growing season to assist with managing the hive and developing educational programming. Use this experience to develop a staffing model that will help sustain the beekeeping program from year to year.
  • Record student and teacher reactions to their beekeeping experiences via quotes, stories, and videos.
  • Organize a tour of a local apiary for beekeeping students.
  • Reach out to others interested in doing youth beekeeping via an online video and an annual educator’s tour at the Youth Farm. Use these experiences to design a professional development workshop for educators interested in beekeeping, to be piloted in 2016.

To help better organize our process and decisions, we have written about the process behind each goal, as described above:

  • Develop a program model:

    • Beginning Beekeepers: Our goal here was to create a model to introduce students to beekeeping, even if they had only a limited amount of time at the Youth Farm, such as on a one-time field trip. Because most field trips involve large (25-75) groups of students, we had to design activities that would involve everyone, without exceeding our capacity to provide appropriate equipment. This resulted in the development of the following activities: a class beekeeping demonstration, the Youth Farm’s “tasty tour,” and a game for young students that we called the “pollination station.” These activities were used per teacher request during one-time field trip visits, and as part of a progressive exposure to beekeeping for Kennedy Elementary students, who visit the Youth Farm twice each school year.
    • Intermediate and Advanced Beekeepers: With our intermediate beekeepers, our goal was to create an opportunity for middle and high school students with a keen interest in bees the chance to experience beekeeping in a hands-on way, often for the first time. Because the beehive is a constantly changing environment, we wanted students to experience the bees over a series of weeks. To achieve this, we offered a weekly beekeeping workshop to the middle school students involved in the Garden Fit program, as well as high school students involved in the Seed to Table program. Both of these programs make regular (at least weekly) visits to the Youth Farm throughout the summer. Originally, our plan was to have the middle school students be designated as Intermediate, while high schoolers would be Advanced beekeepers learning more complicated techniques and topics. In reality, we found that students’ abilities to take on more advanced tasks was not a function of age, but rather of a students’ past experience and comfort level around the bees. Some middle school students had visited a hive before, while some high school students had not. Thus it made the most sense to join all of these students into one group of Intermediate Beekeepers, offering tasks and teachable moments to individual students based on their abilities. A number of the Intermediate beekeepers from the summer had the opportunity to participate in honey harvest and lip balm making activities. As part of these activities, students created labels for their products, and discussed how the Youth Farm could spend any money earned. (Better bee suits was a popular request during the summer of 2015.) Lip balm was sold in two locations: 1) at the Goodman Community Center during the fall and winter of 2014, with sales organized by the Seed to Table students 2) at Kennedy Elementary, with sales organized by the 5th grade teachers and students, who also helped created lip balm during their fall field trip to the Youth Farm.


  • Help youth share what they learn:

    • Each year at the end of July, Community GroundWorks offers a garden-based learning course for educators called Growing Minds. Part of the class involves a tour of school garden sites in Madison, including the Youth Farm. This seemed like a natural fit for Intermediate Beekeepers to show off their knowledge to adults.

  • Help youth market and sell value-added products:

    • Extracting honey was a culminating experience for many of our Intermediate Beekeepers – it was what they had been looking forward to all summer long. We tried two different honey harvest methods: in 2014, we used a hand-spun extractor, and in 2015, we used a technique called crush and strain. Both techniques involved students in a hands-on way, but we preferred crush and strain because it required less specialized equipment, and less finesse from enthusiastic student learners. If extracting more than 5 gallons of honey, however, we would advise using an extractor.
    • While our honey resources were limited and reserved for the Intermediate Beekeepers to harvest, we were able to involve several other groups in lip balm making – these groups are described in the Results section. We found that lip balm was an excellent way to involve a lot of students in creating value-added products, because it did not require a large volume of wax from the hive, and was easy to transport and sell to cover the cost of the materials.


  • Hire and train a beekeeping-focused intern

    • In 2014, we hired and trained a beekeeping intern to manage our hive from April-October, as well as develop and run educational programming. What we learned was that while it was beneficial to have a staff person who was particularly focused on the bee program, we needed that person to also be integrated into the rest of the Youth Farm programming as well – the bees do not work in isolation at the farm, and the same held true about our beekeeping program.
    • In 2015, we chose not to hire a specific beekeeping staff member; instead, per the learnings above, we offered an introduction to beekeeping workshop for our entire group of interns, and then offered continued training to one or two staff who expressed a particular interest, and who could meet the schedule requirements. In this year, beekeeping lessons were led mainly by the Youth Farm Manager, with assistance from selected interns. This made interns involvement with the bees less isolated from the rest of the farm and required less intensive training overall.
    • In the future, we are interested in taking the best from these two approaches by hiring an intern to work with both our farm programs and our bees. We would also consider taking on a high-school aged apprentice in addition to this intern.


  • Record student and teacher reactions to their beekeeping experiences:

    • We achieved this goal through the systematic recording of quotes from students and teachers each day following our program time. We also had Intermediate Beekeepers complete exit interviews at the end of each summer, asking them questions about their experience with the bees – this was done either in writing, or in video form.
    • We found that the candid quotes and observations gave the most insight into student experience and learning – they often got “stage fright” on camera, or didn’t know what to write in a reflection, but in the moment, their comments to each other, or their emotional reactions to being near the bees, were plentiful and full of meaning.


  • Organize a tour of a local apiary for beekeeping students:

    • We chose local beekeeper Jeanne Hansen for this because her apiary was larger than ours, but not overwhelmingly large (10 hives), she was enthusiastic about teaching the younger generation to keep bees. She is also a member of the Dane County Beekeepers Association, which is an excellent resource for new beekeepers. Our goal through this tour was to show youth that starting a home apiary is a possibility right here in Madison.

  • Reach out to others interested in doing youth beekeeping

    • There were a number of options available to us in this realm. The educator’s tour was an obvious choice, because the timing and logistics fit well with our program model, and fit our goal of offering youth a chance to share their knowledge. It was also a way to gauge potential interest in a more extensive workshop for educators around the topic of youth beekeeping.
    • We chose to host our online video/webinar because they have a national reach to a large group of educators – including a strongly established online community called Growing School Gardens – and they were able to provide an audio-visual platform that was professional and easy to use. We also liked that their webinars/videos are archived online for others to view later.
    • We also chose to develop a two-page brief about beekeeping, to be disseminated via the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative (WSGI) website, which has statewide reach. This short document is intended to pique educators’ interest and offer them additional resources to learn more.
    • We have created a new webpage on the WSGI website. This page includes links to all of the beekeeping lessons we have developed, as well as the beekeeping webinar and brief mentioned above. We have already received an inquiry from an educational farm in Maine asking for resources about youth beekeeping and were able to refer them to this website. Webpage link:
    • We have found that there seems to be a significant amount of interest among educators – particularly among those already involved in garden-based education – in learning more about beekeeping. Thus, we have structured into our 2016 program plan and budget to pilot an on-site professional development for educators focused on youth beekeeping.


  • Nathan Larson: Assisted in planning and editing the beekeeping video/webinar, organized the annual educator tour of the Youth Farm.
  • Lynn Scott and Nina Marti, staff: Helped plan, promote, and archive our youth beekeeping webinar in March of 2015.
  • Moira McAdams, Goodman Youth Farm intern: Assisted in managing beehives and developing educational bee-related programming, April-October 2014.
  • Emma Cornwell: Goodman Youth Farm intern, Assisted in managing beehives, April-June 2015
  • Madeleine Fischer, Goodman Youth Farm intern: Assisted in managing beehives and developing educational bee-related programming, June-October 2015
  • Jeanne Hansen, local beekeeper and member of the Dane County Beekeepers Association: Hosted Youth Farm middle school beekeepers for a tour of her home apiary in Madison, July 2015.
  • John Bailey, local beekeeper: Visited the Youth Farm on three occasions to offer advice and training to Youth Farm staff and youth beekeepers. Also offered hive management advice via phone and email.
  • Keith Polluck, Seed to Table teacher at the Goodman Community Center: Facilitated a lip-balm making lesson and activity with his high school students in conjunction with the Youth Farm, July 2014 and February 2015. Supported high school students’ involvement with Youth Farm beehives during weekly summer visits.
  • Howard Hayes, Garden Fit program coordinator at the Goodman Community Center: Supported middle school students’ involvement with Youth Farm beehives during weekly summer visits.
  • Rich and Stacy Schneider, Capitol Bee Supply: Supported the Youth Farm beekeeping program through local sales of beekeeping products, as well as free advice regarding hive management as needed.
  • Diane Palmiter, Patricia Kelly, Karyn Nicka, Chris Salem - Kennedy Elementary 5th Grade Team: Helped 5th grade students label, market, and sell the beeswax lip balm they created during their Youth Farm field trip, December 2014 and 2015.

To help better organize our results, we have detailed results for each goal as listed above.

  • Develop a program model:

    • In our class beekeeping demonstration, Beginning Beekeepers learn about the life cycle of honey bees through direct observation, and how caring for bees helps maintain a healthy ecological balance that benefits crops, humans, and the surrounding environment. They also observe honey on the comb, and learn about how beekeepers may take some honey and wax to make a profit – but also leave honey as a resource for the bees. On our “Tasty Tour,” students sample honey from the hive and learn about the relationship between bees and pollination. During our “Pollination Station,” young learners experience the science behind pollination through an interactive game.
    • Our Intermediate Beekeepers learn in-depth about how honey bees (and other pollinators) are an integral part of any agricultural system. We have written formal lessons that can be used to help focus hands-on activities, or as resources for teachable moments as students interact with the hives. (We found the later model to be more practical.) Lesson topics include: Safety Around the Hive, Honeybee Anatomy, Hive Inspection Techniques, Threats to Bees (and benefits of bees in the garden), and Lip Balm Making. Students also use honey from the hive in taste tests and recipes prepared in our outdoor kitchen.


  • Help youth share what they learn:

    • With a month of experience behind them, Intermediate Beekeepers were able to help visitors identify eggs, larvae, and pupae, demonstrate how to use beekeeping tools, explain the role of bees on the farm, and answer many questions from visitors. It was a powerful experience to watch students teach their teachers – the teachers were impressed – and fascinated – by what the students knew, and students were proud to be able to show off their knowledge. Seeing middle school students as role models for their younger peers was also quite profound – it was incredible to see students teaching students that bees are not something to be feared, but rather, an important part of growing the food we eat every day.


  • Help youth create value-added products:

    • Through this activity, youth learn that it is possible to grow a business from a career in beekeeping through the sale of products such as honey and beeswax lip balm. They also learn that it is critical to keep balance with the hive: extracting all of the honey or wax would be detrimental to the bees that create these goods.
    • The following groups were able to create and sell beeswax lip balm:

      • Intermediate Beekeepers (Garden Fit), July 2014 and 2015. Lip balm was used by students, sold at the Youth Farm Community Day in 2015, and donated to the Goodman Community Center.
      • Seed to Table students, February 2015. Lip balm was sold by students at the IronWorks Café at the Goodman Community Center.
      • Kennedy Elementary 5th grade classes, October 2014 and 2015. We have established this as a central activity for the 5th grade class during their fall visit to the Youth Farm. Following the field trip, students were able to sell the lip balm as a class fundraiser. In future years, Kennedy 5th graders will come in to this activity having already experienced beekeeping lessons at the Youth Farm as early elementary students – these activities were established as part of our Beginning Beekeepers program during this grant cycle.
      • Department of Juvenile Corrections’ Grow Academy – July 2014 and 2015. These high school students sold lip balm at a farmer’s market to raise funds for special program activities.
      • In 2015, students created approximately 120 tins of beeswax lip balm at the Youth Farm. Of these, four tins were donated to the Goodman Community Center food pantry. (More were designated for the panty initially, but a recipe error caused tins to stick together and be unfit for donation.)

    • The following groups were able to help extract honey:

      • Intermediate Beekeepers (Garden Fit), August 2014 and 2015.
      • Seed to Table students, August 2014
      • In 2015, students extracted approximately twenty-five 8 oz bottles of honey from our two hives. Of these, four bottles were donated to the Goodman Community Center or used in our Tasty Tour or on-site kitchen, as a way to introduce conversations about beekeeping to other students at the Youth Farm.

    • Hire and train a beekeeping-focused intern

      • As described in the Process section, we took two different approaches to hiring and training a beekeeping intern. In both cases, interns reported enjoying their experience and learning a lot about the bees. When asked if she had learned as much as she had expected about the bees, our 2014 intern responded, “Yes, and then some. Especially beekeeping, you learn by doing it. That’s something you can only get by being out there and getting more comfortable.”
      • Interns were a critical part of student learning, as they were able to devote time to more detailed projects such as developing beekeeping lessons for students.


  • Record student and teacher reactions to their beekeeping experiences

    • Our most important resource in the results of this project comes in the form of stories. Each summer, we had several students participate in our Intermediate Beekeepers group that began the summer with a significant fear of bees. Over the course of a few weeks, these fears would gradually become less and less important, as students gained confidence and comfort around the hive. Instead of fearing the bees, they came to love them. One student in 2014 told us that after she conquered her fear of bees, she had a great love for them, and named beekeeping as her favorite activity. She said: “Now that I know the bees, I never want to leave them. This is the calmest I’ve ever been in my life. I have to tell my mom!” In 2015, two of our Intermediate Beekeepers returned for a second season, and it was remarkable to see how much they remembered, even after nearly a year away from the hive. One student still identified himself as an “official worker with the bees.”
    • A 2014 WORT FM radio interview also captures student reactions to working with the bees on the farm. The recording is posted on the WSGI website:


  • Organize a tour of a local apiary for beekeeping students:

    • Jeanne Hansen introduced students to a device called the solar wax melter, a low-cost, low-energy method for harvesting beeswax. She also gave them a closer look at pollen, and showed them how her hives benefited from her pollinator-friendly gardens. We have included a photo of our students at Jeanne’s apiary in this report!


We learned that there is a keen interest in beekeeping among both youth and educators in the Madison area. We learned that although youth – and adults – often have long-held fears about bees that these fears are often overcome with time spent near the hive, and a new appreciation for bees and their role in sustainable agriculture naturally develops. Participating in an activity that most adults are unfamiliar with – and being able to show off their skills – helped develop a sense of confidence and pride in middle and high school students. Younger students seemed to sense this enthusiasm, and show an interest as well.

In our outreach efforts, we found that teachers were also excited to learn about beekeeping as another way to practice outdoor education – in fact, on many counts we were overwhelmed by the number of positive reactions we received to the information we disseminated. Overall, we believe that this project has produced a model that will continue to inform and inspire educators to incorporate this unique facet of agriculture education into their programs. We are excited to continue this work via our Youth Beekeeping Workshop for Educators in 2016. We also found that the beekeeping program seemed to be inspiring to visitors and volunteers – one of our weekly volunteers from 2015 even made a personal donation to the Youth Farm this fall that will help purchase additional bee suits for students next season.

To others embarking on similar work, we would recommend that the program have specific program time and staff dedicated to bees, but also that the beekeeping be integrated with other aspects of the program. Allow students to be involved as dictated by their comfort level and interest, and to share their information with others. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help or change your plan as you go along!


  • The following youth were involved directly in beekeeping at the Youth Farm:

    • Garden Fit students 2014 (25 – includes 5 Intermediate Beekeepers)
    • Garden Fit students 2015 (25 – includes 5 Intermediate Beekeepers)
    • Seed to Table students 2015 (6 – made lipbalm)
    • Grow Academy Students 2014 (6)
    • Grow Academy Students 2015 (6)
    • Kennedy Elementary 5th Grade class 2014 (100)
    • Kennedy Elementary 5th Grade class 2015 (95)
    • Field Trip Groups (At least 100 students participated in bee hive demonstrations; additional students learned about the bees via games, lessons, or honey taste testing. Over 2,200 students visited the Youth Farm in 2015, and the majority of these students were exposed to the beehives at least as a part of a farm tour.)

  • The following educators were involved directly in beekeeping at the Youth Farm:

    • Educators tour 2014 (30)
    • Educators tour 2015 (20)
    • Seed to Table teacher (1)
    • Garden Fit leaders (2)
    • Youth Farm Interns 2014 (8) Note: all interns participated in a beekeeping professional development workshop.
    • Youth Farm Interns 2015 (8)
    • Kennedy Elementary 5th Grade teachers (4)

  • The following resources are available for educators to download on the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative website,

    • Youth Beekeeing Webinar (also available directly from
    • Beekeeping Brief
    • Pollination Station lesson
    • Basic Bee Biology lesson
    • Lip Balm Making lesson

  • Our Youth Beekeeping Webinar reached a live audience of 180 educators, and is available as an online archive for further viewing.
  • All lessons, techniques and reference materials will be available as resources for educators in our 2016 Youth Beekeeping for Educators course.
  • Other beekeeping events: our 2015 Community Day included a beekeeping demonstration by the Youth Farm Manager, as well as a review of the beekeeping program and sale of beekeeping products.


I noticed that the grant proposal and the report form were formatted differently; for example, the report form asked for specific project goals; however, in the proposal form there was no place to record specific goals. I found myself going through the proposal to look for goals that were integrated into the other sections. This could have simply been a factor of how I wrote things, or it could be a change to consider for the future.

The help and support from the SARE Office were excellent, and the online upload system was easy to use. Thank you!




Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Nathan Larson
  • Moira McAdams
  • Jennica Skoug
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.