Planet Bee Foundation: “Beeing” The Change in San Francisco Bay

Planet Bee Foundation: “Beeing” The Change in San Francisco Bay

Planet Bee is an environmental education nonprofit dedicated to engaging young minds with science, nature, and conservation through hands-on programs. We accomplish this by exploring the world through the eyes (or should I say five eyes) of the struggling honey bee! As many of us know, the buzz about bees lately is more than just talk— climate change has profoundly accelerated the decline of honey bees and native bee populations, which poses a serious threat to the food systems and ecosystems we all depend on. At Planet Bee we truly bee-lieve that investing resources in youth education to foster environmental literacy and stewardship is fundamental to cultivating a green-minded generation that will work to protect our environment. We are grateful that our Bay Area roots allow us to partner with an incredibly diverse set of schools, nonprofits, summer camps, environmental centers, and businesses who share our goal of empowering students to make positive change through the power of individual action.

Bees and other pollinators are undeniably crucial to human agricultural systems and natural ecosystems across the globe. They are responsible for pollinating  ⅓ of all the food we eat and 90% of plants that make up wild habitats!  Yet, native bee populations are declining due to a variety of human-created factors. Bees face tremendous repercussions from issues such as climate change, habitat loss, farming practices, disease, and pesticide use. In the last 60 years, the number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has fallen from 6 million beehives in 1947, to just 2.5 million today. Combined with a frightening decline in native pollinators and the increasing practice of mono-cropping farming, farmers increasingly depend upon beehives being transported from across the country to pollinate their crops. Acknowledging  our precious food supply and ecosystem are at great risk, we at Planet Bee aim to preserve pollinator vitality and create a greener way of life for generations to come through our K-12 education programs. The health of the planet depends on the health of bees! 

Started by the husband and wife team, Debra and Bill Tomaszewski, Planet Bee has been educating individuals at local schools and nonprofits in the Bay Area for over a decade! Through a grassroots effort, Bill, an avid beekeeper, and Deb, a dedicated teacher, brought observation beehives to schools in the San Francisco area. Encouraged by the resonance their efforts had with students, Deb created a unique, bee-focused curriculum to accompany their visits. Before they knew it, the program took off! Having now educated over 50,000 students in-person to date, Planet Bee has expanded its programs to include corporate workshops. While supporting the green directives of companies, Planet Bee’s corporate programs bolster team-building and create widespread awareness of bee decline, both within the company and outside of it. Through the teaching of corporate programs, Planet Bee can provide lessons to a myriad of schools in and around the bay area at little to no cost! 

Rising to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Planet Bee have developed a distance-learning curriculum to meet the pressing need for quality Environmental STEM education. Our remote E-STEM distance learning lessons enable us to reach students across the nation through our lesson videos about honey bees and native bees, lesson plans, supplemental materials such as worksheets, hands-on games, citizen science projects, and interactive activities for the classroom and home. We also offer real-time virtual lessons taught by our experienced environmental educators! We offer all of these programs at little to no cost in our continual commitment to social justice. 

Planet Bee’s community programs involve partnerships with nonprofits, community groups, urban farms and gardens, and other educational institutions, including the San Francisco Unified School District, the California Academy of Sciences, Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project, the Bay Area Science Festival, and many others. These programs consist of bee education programs for youth and adults, beekeeping workshops, Adopt-A-Hive programs for community gardens and nonprofits, and hands-on educational tabling programs. Our goal at Planet Bee is to reach underserved communities through stewardship kits, virtual beekeeping classes, and hive dives lives. We believe everyone deserves a chance to learn about the threats bees face, how these threats can be overcome, and how to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for all!

Want to help the bees? Bee the change! Here are a few easy ways you can help save the bees and preserve the environment:

  • Plant pollinator-friendly gardensHelp the bees by planting pollinator-friendly flowers and provide habitats for native bees!
  • Voice your opinion – Reach out to your representatives and stay up to date on environmental legislation
  • Donate to Planet Bee – All donations go towards funding our new remote learning program to educate the next generation of environmental leaders 

Authors: Ellie Pumpkin and Clara Pitsker

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