Dordt University’s BEESTINGZ inspires next generation

Dordt University Agriculture Professor Dr. Duane Bajema is leading a project, funded by a $500,000 USDA grant, to train secondary school teachers in using beekeeping as a tool to engage Gen Z students in STEM subjects and address pollinator decline.

A Dordt University agriculture professor is continuing his work on training secondary school teachers to capture the interest of Generation Z students in the sciences and address pollinator decline using honeybees.

Last summer, Professor Emeritus of Agriculture Dr. Duane Bajema received word that he would serve as a primary investigator for a $500,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The grant is titled “Bringing Effective and Engaging Science Teaching into the Generation Z (BEESTINGZ) Classroom using Apiculture.”

Bajema and Melanie Bloom, a curriculum consultant and Ph.D. candidate who works at Sioux Central High School, are training over 12 secondary teachers from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota in beekeeping. The teachers will receive equipment for their schools as well as colonies of honeybees. They teachers are also in the process of developing and implementing curriculum around beekeeping, which will be used to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in their schools.

Pollinators are in decline, and that has long-term ramifications for food and agriculture, says Bajema. The decline is due in part to habitat loss, diminished food supply, insecticides, diseases, parasites, and more.

“Secondary teachers and schools have opportunities to affect local community activities as well as encourage students in the sciences and technology at the post-secondary level,” he adds. “Gen Z can have a huge impact on beekeeping, as they want to be creative and contribute to solving problems in the world. In this case, they can serve their local community be addressing the environmental need of pollinator loss and habitat decline.”

In May, teachers came to Dordt’s campus for a two-day workshop led by Bajema, Bloom, regional industry representatives, mentors, researchers, and others.

“The teachers have mentioned that their students are enthusiastic about their work with beekeeping, which has carried over to parents and school administrators,” says Bajema. “Some teachers are stopped in their communities and asked how the ‘honeybee thing’ is going. Teachers see that as an encouragement.”

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Last June, the USDA announced they would invest $262.5 million in colleges and universities to foster the next generation of diverse agricultural professionals across the nation. NIFA made a $7.3 million investment to increase the food and agriculture educational workforce, which supports projects around the country that seeks to increase the number of K-14 educational professionals trained in the food and agricultural sciences.

Dordt University is one of these institutions, along with Clemson University, Utah State University, New Mexico State University, University of Alaska-Anchorage, and others.

About Dordt University

As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Located in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dordt is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by the Wall Street Journal, Times Higher Education,, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.

A picture of campus behind yellow prairie flowers