Bee Corps (Affiliated Program)

Bee Corps: Teaching through a systems approach to improve science and food literacy in children and adults.

Starting in Spring 2014

Pollinators have a profound impact on our lives. One third of the food we eat is directly derived from insect pollination, with many more foods such as beef indirectly linked to pollinators. Pollination is the perfect system for teaching both food and science literacy because 1) pollinators are charismatic (e.g. Monarch butterflies, bumble bees), 2)  recent bee declines have raised public awareness of pollinators’ importance, 3) pollination has a direct link to Nebraska agriculture (e.g. apple, local food growers’ crops, most garden variety fruits and vegetables, alfalfa and clover seed production, greenhouse tomatoes, sunflower, cherry, and berry crops), 4) pollinators’ life-cycles are easily observable, 5) there are many scientific questions surrounding pollinator and plant relationships, and 6) the pollination system is critical to all terrestrial life and has a profound impact on environmental health on both a local and global scale.

We are creating a series of educational programming for grades 3-5 and Adults focused on teaching science and food literacy through the lense of the pollination system.

1) We will involve Master Gardeners (our focus adult audience) and other interested adults in pollinator habitat remediation program that includes ground nesting and leafcutter bee habitat remediation research and community showcase pollinator plot plantings.  This core group will receive training on how to adapt habitat (garden landscapes) to include beneficial forage plants and nesting habitat that may have a profound impact on local pollinator abundance. This work will be directly tied to the garden and commercial food systems in their communities.  Project PIs will work with the adult group to plant research trial plots of nesting habitat and pollinator forage crop plantings. Their work will be combined to develop extension research bulletins to improve pollinator conservation techniques that directly apply to Nebraska pollinators. Newly trained group members will then be asked in Year 2 to extend the pollinator systems programming to classrooms and garden clubs in their own communities.  Many Master Gardeners already work with local schools and garden clubs, conducting educational programming with these groups. The proposed project will provide seed and educational materials that the  volunteer group can use to create learning opportunities within the community. As a horticulture educator, Bjorklund has direct access to adult groups such as Master Gardeners (especially each year’s interns) to conduct this programming with. Bjorklund plans to create a ‘Bee Corps’ of volunteers interested in engaging in the research of the pollination system.  This targeted group of volunteers will assist with programming, help evaluate the success of different pollinator habitat augmentations, and collect data on audience knowledge gain, and behavior change.  Bjorklund is beginning her research in support of her PhD program.  Her research focus is pollination systems education delivered through extension programming.  Our proposed programing aligns with the work she hopes to do for her doctoral research.

2) We will involve children grades 3-5 in pollination systems curriculum. We will work with schools and 4H clubs in the Fremont and Central City area to deliver a 10 hour curriculum on Pollination system. We will follow the successful Outdoor Skill programming that Tammy Stuhr works with as a model for development of the pollination curriculum. The main part of the programming will involve children in conducting basic science experiments with pollinators, leaf-cutter habitat placement, pollinator diversity counts, pollen collection and comparison activities, invertebrate pollinator conservation activities (pollinator gardening), and data analysis manipulation, reporting, and media creation and dissemination (much as scientists do through the project website (3P pages)). The programming will be developed to teach pollination as a system and the benefits of pollination to our food and global environment. Co-PIs Stuhr and Golick will take the lead in implementation of programming in grades 3-5 audiences and will use Stuhr’s connections with local schools and 4H chapters in her covered counties to test programming.


Funded by UNL Extension Innovative Programming Funds    Extension Logo