Beekeeping in Goodwill Garden

Initiative to bring beehives to campus to support food pantry



onnie Walker, a local beekeper, will be speaking at “Beekeeping in the Goodwill Garden” at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Yehl Ballroom as part of the CHESS Reinventing Right Now speaker series.

Madeline Bruce, Editor-in-Chief

Gannon University’s Goodwill Garden will soon be home to new inhabitants as an initiative to start beekeeping will bring a hive into the campus garden that supplies local food pantries with fresh produce each year.
Since 2013, the garden has provided the Erie community with hundreds of pounds of fresh produce each season to help families in need. Now, it will also provide a home for bees, which will also contribute to the overall environmental health of the garden and the community.
Leigh Forbes, Ed.D., professor in Gannon’s School of Education and associate dean of CHESS, said that the idea to put a beehive on campus came when she ran into an old friend.
“I ran into Connie Walker, who I used to teach with, at a farmer’s market over the summer,” she said. “She asked if there was anywhere to put a beehive on Gannon’s campus, and after collaborating with Erika Ramalho and Daniel Salamone in service learning, we decided to meet in the garden. We tossed around some ideas there, and we came to the agreement to put a beehive in.”
Walker, who is a local beekeeper, will be speaking at Gannon Thursday as part of the CHESS Reinventing Right Now Speaker Series. The event is titled “Beekeeping in the Goodwill Garden” and is at 6 p.m. in the Yehl Ballroom.
However, the beehive and Thursday’s event are just the beginning of a wider initiative members of the Gannon community hope to continue, Forbes said.
“The beehive initiative turned into a service learning project in the School of Education Concepts and Methods of Science and Technology course,” she said.
The class, which early childhood education students take, now includes a service learning component, rather than students simply creating lesson plans for fake students.
The class divided into groups responsible for figuring out logistical things like the type of bees being put in the garden and the type of hive, doing community outreach and educating themselves, coordinating with service learning, and reaching out to an early childhood learning center to see if they’d be interested in a beekeeping lesson from School of Education students.
“After the March 31 event, we have about a month in which we will order the bees and put everything in place,” Forbes said. “Out of this beekeeping project has grown actual lessons that the students will deliver to real kids in a real garden.”
Alexa Harding, a senior early childhood and special education major, said that educating the community, especially children, about bees helps to make people less afraid of them.
“I feel that the implementation of beekeeping will be beneficial for not only the existing plants and garden spaces in the garden for pollination and further growth, but also for the education of adults and children,” she said. “Many are afraid of bees and see them as these terrible things, especially children who are told that bees sting.
“However, with a hive and the resources we hope to implement into the garden, I have a good feeling that we can redirect this idea to promote bees in a positive way.”
However, more than just the School of Education is involved in the beekeeping initiative. Martha Kosir, Ph.D., chairperson of the foreign languages and cultures program at Gannon, will be speaking on the history of beekeeping, particularly in Slovenia, at Thursday’s event.
The history of beekeeping goes back centuries and is an important part of Slovenian culture that has become a worldwide practice.
“In Slovenia, beekeeping is a way of life,” Kosir said. “In 2017, the United Nations declared May 20 as World Bee Day, which is also the birthday of the first beekeeping teacher, Anton Janša.
“The Slovenian Beekeepers Association pushed for this, and one of the reasons is because a lot of the bee species were starting to die out.”
In Slovenia, beekeeping is a point of pride. One in 20 people in Slovenia are beekeepers, Kosir said.
“In Slovenia, beekeeping is so much more than honey,” she said. “There’s a place where you can go and stay in a hotel surrounded by beehives just to see the important work of the bees.”
The beehive designs are also an important cultural component in Slovenia. The fronts of beehives are typically colorful to attract bees, and decorating the fronts of beehives is a tradition that started in the 18th century. Designs include things from paintings of religious figures to scenes from everyday life.
“The idea is that the Slovenian beekeepers are teaching the rest of the world how to handle bees and what to do, so they’re at the forefront of these endeavors,” Kosir said.
The adoption of World Bee Day brings awareness to the possibility of bees going extinct as well as their positive impact on the environment.
“We depend on bees, so what we’re trying to do here is raise awareness for the critical work they do for us,” Kosir said. “That’s why we need to show respect and really think about how we’re growing crops, what kind of pesticides we’re using, and how we’re going to keep bee populations in mind.”

To Emily Pier, a junior early childhood education major, beekeeping on a college campus is important for the environment.
“The special thing about bees on the college campus is the fact that students, professors and the community can witness the growth and reap the harvest,” she said.
The talk Kosir and Walker are giving Thursday is just the prelude to the larger initiative of beekeeping and increasing the involvement of the Goodwill Garden on campus, Forbes said. “The speaker series is really the kickoff to things that are going to be happening in the garden,” she said. “We recognize that it isn’t a short thing – we can’t just put the bees in the garden and be done. The beehive will become something the School of Education will continue to monitor and use in our classes.”
According to Forbes, it’s the beginning of a vision to help both the Gannon community and the Erie community surrounding campus.
“It’s awesome that we have people on campus who are already invested in the garden that hopefully will be able to bring everybody together so that we can work better as a team and have that community connection, as well,” she said.
That community connection can be made right in the garden, as individuals who live around the garden are welcome to the fresh fruits and vegetables in it and are welcome to cultivate it.
“It fits in with two aspects of Gannon’s mission,” Forbes said. “The aspect of giving students the power to make decisions and have leadership, and the aspect of social responsibility. It’s a community garden where Gannon students and people living in the area can participate.”
For students, it’s an opportunity to participate in the community and make a difference.
“It’s a wonderful experience for my classmates and I to make connections, provide learning opportunities, and bring awareness to both the Goodwill Garden and the current issue surrounding bees,” Pier said. “I can’t wait to brag about this project to my future classes.”
Harding hopes that the work her class is doing will garner more students to the garden.
“I hope that by adding the beehive, it draws more attention and attraction to the space, whether it’s through community partnerships, school field trips, Gannon courses or more,” she said.
“The more people there are to take care of an enhance the space, the better.”
At this point, though, Forbes said most of the initiative is a vision.
“We would like to see that vision shared by all of the stakeholders in the garden,” she said.
“I think that it’s something Gannon has to offer the students.”

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