Pioneer Pollinators

Final report for YENC17-115

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2017: $969.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Zane Trace FFA Organization
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Manager:
Jennifer Johnston
Zane Trace HS
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Project Information


This project is the study of impacts on students’ knowledge and actions relating to pollinators in the ecosystem before and after receiving  education on the topic. Lessons and information were provided to students about honeybees and other pollinators which exposed them to the importance of agriculture in their lives. Often times, even for adults, people forget how important the environment and agriculture is to their day-to-day activities. The impact was measured through a quiz before and after the lessons. The quiz had the same questions each time, in order to accurately measure how much the students have learned. Along with pre- and postquizzes, attendance was taken to get an accurate number of the students involved. The hypothesis was that the knowledge gained by students would significantly increase due to the lessons. The treatment group, consisting of 78 students, received the lessons on pollinators with the independent variable of the lessons added. The control group, consisting of 45 students, was the group that did not receive lessons between the initial and post tests. The dependent variable was measuring how much the students actually knew before and after with no added knowledge to prove there was no significant change. The results of this study showed a 49% increase in students’ knowledge relating to pollinators in their environment.

Project Objectives:
  1. Educate students in the Zane Trace School District about the importance of honey bees and pollinators in agriculture.
  2. Encourage kids to build a more diverse environment for pollinators by planting seeds at home.
  3. Increase parents' understanding of bee ecology and sustainable agriculture by publishing articles and sending home information sheets about the Pioneer Pollinators Project.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Aaron Miller (Educator)

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools

Participation Summary:

3 Farmers/ranchers
123 Youth
5 Educators
Education/outreach description:

The honey bee is dying at an alarming rate for reasons unknown. The main two contributors to the loss of the honey bee is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and pesticides such as neonicotinoids. Colony Collapse Disorder is the mysterious disappearance of honey bees within a hive, commonly leaving the queen and honey. Currently, there is no known cause for CCD, other than a lengthy list of possible causes. For example: pesticides, varroa mite, nosema parasite, loss of forage area, lack of genetic diversity, and more. This isn’t an issue that only farmers are able to solve however, as any person can take action to help solve this issue. The purpose of this study is to educate students at Zane Trace High School in hope that they will take their gained knowledge home and make change to their daily lives. Students will gain not only knowledge related to the importance of the honey bee to agriculture but also ways that they can help their survival without necessarily going anywhere near a bee hive. Students will gain knowledge about reducing pesticide spraying near their house to reduce bugs, and students will be given packets of flower seeds to plant to increase pollinator habitats, as well as learn how to support their local beekeepers. Making a change at this level will not only support the honey bee, but also the surrounding crop production.

Literature Review
Since the beginning of civilization, honeybees have represented hard-work, cooperation, unity, and altruism. Each bee works toward the well-being and safety of the rest of their colony, playing his or her specific role. Nurse bees take care of the young and the queen, guard bees ensure the safety of the hive, drone bees mate with the queen, heater bees keep the hive warm, and forage bees venture out to do just what we’d expect: pollinate.

Honeybees may have frightened us from time to time, having buzzed near our heads and caused us to scatter; however, the loss of these insects would result in more than less stinging and breakfast condiment options because they play a crucial role in our agricultural system. Honeybees are responsible for one third of all crops consumed and 15 billion dollars in crop value each year in the United States alone (United States Department of Agriculture, 2016). Commercial production of several crops rely on their pollination, including fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. Out of the nearly 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world, honeybees are responsible for the pollination of more than 80 (Huff, 2013). Without these insects, our diets would not only be less nutritious and flavorful, but also, food would be scarce. It’s safe to say honeybees are of high importance to our planet’s food security. While these insects are incredibly necessary, in the fall of 2006, bees began to vanish (Sass,2011). All over the world, these furry insects started to disappear. One hour, a hive is full of buzzing and working bees, while the next it is completely empty, full of only the deafening silence. Hives were often found nearly empty, with only a few young bees and a live queen bee left behind or worse, no bees at all. In either case, no dead bees are found. The first case was reported by Dave Hackenberg, a former FFA member and veteran beekeeper. Hackenberg left 400 hives in a field to feed on tree blossoms (a bee's favorite food). When he returned a month later, 364 of the colonies had completely vanished (Engelsdorp, 2008). This situation became known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD.

When beekeepers from all across the U.S. began reporting mysterious losses, various theories began popping up. Ideas such as: aliens, Russian conspiracy, cellphones, and the Biblical rapture were quickly dismissed. Agricultural scientists knew just how problematic the situation was. Bees and other insects are considered environmental indicators. Their disappearance meant something very wrong was occurring. This confused beekeepers for years, until scientists discovered some possible sources of the issue.

A Harvard researcher, Chenseng Lu, began working with nearby beekeepers. He and his team treated twelve colonies of honey bees with small amounts of neonicotinoids, a commonly used pesticide chemically similar to nicotine. This pesticide is added to various genetically modified crops, and can remain in the soil for up to five years. Six untreated control hives were also kept in the same vicinity. All 18 of these hives survived throughout the summer, but come wintertime, six of the treated hives disappeared without a trace (Lu, 2014). It has been proven that these neonicotinoids can cause neurological functions to drop as well as cognitive problems in various insects. It is possible that honeybees forget the location of their hive over time while being exposed to these chemicals.

Scientists continue to search for a definite cause, looking to farmers for answers. Before CCD, years and years ago, farmers had multiple crops and produced diverse foods. Throughout the seasons, what was being grown would change, and bees would always have something to pollinate and produce honey with. In more recent years, however, farmers have tended to grow only one type of crop, often having hundreds or thousands of acres containing only one food source. When it is not the season for said crop, bees would have nothing to pollinate, and no reason to stick around. This seems to be the most plausible and possible answer to the phenomenon.

It is important to make sure communities are informed about issues, whether it be a rural area or a urban area. This research attempts to inform how anyone can make a positive impact on the survivability of honey bees and other pollinators in their areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization suggests increasing habitat area, decreasing exposure to pesticides, increasing education, etc. (Lumpur, 2016). There are less complicated and easy steps to implement these practices at home; plant bee-friendly flowers, protect weeds such as wildflowers, avoid using pesticides on lawns and gardens, support local farmers and beekeepers, understand that honey bees are not out to get you.

Materials and Methods
I. Participants
The participants that assisted in the completion of this experiment include groups of students from Agricultural classes and Biology classes at Zane Trace High School.
II. Materials
   A. Computer
   B. Printer
   C. Surveys administered through Google Forms
       • Initial Survey: 
       • Post Survey:
   D. 78 students to participate in lessons and surveys (treatment group)
   E. 45 students to participate in only surveys (control group)
   F. PowerPoint
   G. Beekeeping Materials for examples in lesson; bee pollen, honey, wax, observatory hives
   H. Ferry-Morse Pollinator Flower Mix for students participating in lesson
III. Methods
   A. An online survey was created using Google Forms asking questions about common issues facing honey bees, bee keepers, farmers, and other pollinators.
   B. The initial survey was given to 78 participants, who were asked to answer questions about common bee facts, and how they may interact with pollinators before a lesson. The pre-test was conducted a week before the lessons were taught, and students were given 15 minutes to complete their quiz. The same initial survey was administered to 45 participants that were not be involved in lessons.
   C. Participants were not given any information prior to this survey, it was a base line for how much they know about pollinators.
   D. A PowerPoint presentation was created to educate the treatment participants on the importance of pollinators in food production and other areas of the environment.
   E. This PowerPoint and lesson was presented to the treatment group participants during a 45-minute class period. The lesson lasted approximately 30 minutes with interactions with live bee hives, to give students time to complete post surveys. No lesson was presented to the control group students.
   F. Both groups were once again asked to take the survey and given 15 minutes to complete.
   G. Calculations and averages of the scores for each term were found from the new surveys and recorded and compared.


After analyzing the data from the surveys it was found that there was a 49% increase between the initial and post surveys used to gauge their knowledge. The control group proved to show an insignificant increase in the knowledge gained, at only 4%. The differences in the treatment group and control group were tested using a statistical equation used to measure the difference between two means in large sample sizes. The post results of the control group and the treatment group were also compared using a statistical equation to measure the difference in large, independent samples.






Discussion and Conclusions
According to the results found, students retained information and scored 49% better on a test after given a lesson. Their test results’ improvement proved that students were able to recollect the details, confirming the lessons had a positive impact on their knowledge pertaining to honeybees and their impact on the environment. Our hypothesis was proven correct, stating that the students would perform better on a test after given a presentation. Before the lesson, students scored an average of 41%, while after the lesson the average was raised to 90%. 94% of students also stated they would plant pollinator-friendly flowers around their house in the spring.

This will increase the habitat for honeybees, allowing the bee population to increase. In the pre-lesson tests, students were asked if their family used pesticides on their crops or around their home. After the lessons, they were asked if they were likely to use pesticides again. The number of people likely to not use pesticides increased from 27% to 90%. Analyzing the information statistically ensured that the information was accurate and significant. The results from Table 1 proved there was a significant increase in knowledge, while Table 2 showed no significant increase.

Evaluating the differences in the post responses between the treatment group and the control group, in Table 3, proved that there was a significant difference in the final results. The data received from this study implies that teaching students the importance of pollinators should have a significant positive impact on the pollinators in their area. Further information could be gained by continuing this project with the sample of students already tested. This could be done by doing a follow-up survey during the summer to further evaluate the effectiveness of the information they gained. Taking the project even further, an environmental study could be evaluated by measuring if there was an increase in pollinators in areas that had received these lessons.


Several teachers assisted the two researchers by providing different essential materials to complete this project. Mr. Clark, biology teacher, and Mrs. Johnston, ag advisor, provided their classrooms for the lessons to be conducted. Mrs. Corcoran, stats teacher, provided insight on the calculations to accurately measure the differences in the tests. The North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Organization is also to be thanked for funding this project through a grant previously earned to conduct lessons. The North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Organization is a nationwide grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture.


Huff, E. A. (2014, July 14). The story of honeybees and their importance in sustaining life.

     Retrieved March 01, 2017, from:

Lu, C., Warchol, K. M., & Callahan, R. A. (2014, March 27). Exposure to Neonicotinoids

     Impaired Honey Bees Winterization. Retrieved from:

Lumpur, K. (2016, February 26). Pollinators vital to our food supply under threat. Retrieved March 06, 2017, from:

Sass, J. (2011, March). Why We Need Bees. Retrieved March 2, 2017, from: 

United States Department of Agriculture. (2016, May 13). News Release. Retrieved March 2, 2017, from:   

Van Engelsdorp, D., Jr., J. H., Underwood, R. M., & Pettis, J. (2008, December 30). A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to       Spring 2008. Retrieved March 06, 2017, from:

Learning Outcomes

78 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness

Project Outcomes

12 New working collaborations
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Explanation for change in organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:

Working collaborations: If new collaborations include the establishment of lesson partnerships with elementary teachers at Zane Trace, then the number would be 12.

Number of educators who learned about SARE and sustainable agriculture resources: 12 elementary, 3 high school

Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable agriculture: Lessons were taught in 12 elementary classrooms.

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.