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2020 In Review: Bee-ing the Change

Most of us would agree that 2020 has been nothing short of momentous. For many of our friends, families, and communities, this year has brought challenges unlike any we have met in the past. Yet even in the face of adversity, we cling to the good in the world and continue to hold onto courage, compassion, resilience, and hope as we enter the new year. Here at Planet Bee, we are truly inspired by our community’s efforts to unite and rejuvenate local neighborhoods. We’ve been busy bees working to do our part through youth education, empowerment, and sponsorship in a newly virtual world. We can’t wait to carry this momentum forward into 2021, as we broaden our impact and “bee” the change we wish to see in the world!

Before our hive dives into the new year, we’ll first take a moment to look back and appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to forward our social justice mission in 2020. We started the year off strong with a huge volunteer event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. In partnership with Apple, their team members built more than 500 native bee houses in just one afternoon, to be donated to high needs schools. They also built and painted five beehives! Beyond building homes for bees, 13 pollinator-friendly garden boxes were painted, constructed, and donated to the Boys and Girls Club in San Jose. In February, we had an out-of-this-world time as we taught NASA employees about the importance of bees!

Through a generous grant from the San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education, we had the good fortune of teaching the youngest minds of all this spring. Almost 300 preschoolers learned about our furry friends, the environment, and pollinators’ important role in the ecosystem. We are thrilled to inspire these little bee-lovers to become the next generation of environmental stewards.

Families paint bee hives at a partner event

Though we had to cancel our in-person lessons due to the pandemic, we were able to “bee” adaptable. In March as the COVID restrictions were implemented, we sent a virtual packet of our flagship Humble Honey Bee lesson to every teacher who we would have visited for the Spring of 2020, serving over 3500 students. To go along with this, we celebrated Earth Day by providing those classrooms with two virtual Hive Dive Lives where we explored the inside of a live beehive and answered questions from local students. At the end of the school year, we had an additional virtual Hive Dive Live for Francisco Middle School, sponsored by our wonderful partner BeeSure, America!

Bee-yond the virtual resources we supplied to schools, we donated 155 native bee house STEM kits (built by our incredible corporate partners) to children of COVID-19 first responders. We delivered these kits to emergency child care locations hosted by San Francisco Recreations and Parks Department, as well as the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Oregon.

Preschoolers engage in a Seedball lesson

Although the pandemic paused many things, it did not pause the bees! We were busy maintaining our 2,500,000 honey bees in the Bay Area. Caring for these fuzzy friends was a lovely reason to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful nature that California has to offer. Thank you to Google, Stanford University, Sutro Tower, Keller Estate Winery, Marin Catholic High School, Visitacion Valley Middle School, Francisco Middle School, Acta Non Verba, and Peralta Hacienda.

In June, we were thrilled to begin a bee-utiful partnership with the GIANT Company focusing on educating children and local communities in Pennsylvania. To kick things off, we installed three hives at their headquarters ’ pollinator-friendly solar array field in Carlisle, Pennsylvania during Pollinator Week. We were bee-yond grateful to receive a generous donation of $50,000 and become part of GIANT Company’s Healing the Planet Initiative! Together we are promoting sustainable systems and greener communities to protect bees and the environment all across the country.

Beautifully painted hives to go on GIANT campus

Although the world was very different in July, summer camps continued to press on and we were lucky to be a part of them. We had a blast virtually exploring the inside of a bee hive to summer campers at The Ranch.

August was busy with our buzz-worthy partners! A huge thank you to Modcloth, who donated 100% of the proceeds from the sales of two bee-themed clothing items. We also joined GIANT and Stonyfield Yogurt in Philadelphia in support of Stonyfield’s Play Free Initiative to convert public parks to organic grounds. Our Planet Bee beekeeper and two interns joined GIANT team members in creating seed balls that were donated to local community gardens.

Continuing our annual tradition, we participated in the Bay Area Science Festival (virtually, of course!) in October by educating over 200 participants who were able to take a close up look at bees in our hive from the comfort of their own home. Our team of four college interns were on duty answering rapid-fire scientific questions as they came pouring in.

Speaking of looking at bees close up, we got to show off our furry friends in person at Peralta Hacienda - from a safe distance - to high school students who are part of their Youth Making History Group. Peralta Hacienda is a wonderful cultural and community hub serving the local community of Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland, CA. Our wonderful corporate partner, Pestec, sponsored this event as well as another socially distanced hive dive for young gardeners at Acta Non Verba, Youth Urban Farm Project in Oakland, CA.

Making Seedballs at a GIANT event

We are also extremely proud to announce our partnership with Friends of Flight 93, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and commemoration of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania. Friends of Flight 93 recognizes the important role that bees play in maintaining biodiversity and native habitats, both of which help to restore the memorial crash site to its natural ecological state. To help educate youth on the importance of pollinators to ecological restoration, Friends of Flight 93 connected thousands of teachers in Pennsylvania schools to our new virtual bee programs.

As challenges and suffering have continued this year for so many, we have coped by focusing on gratitude and silver linings during this very difficult time. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to accelerate our long-term goal of scaling up nationally through remote programming. This summer we developed a distance learning curriculum for virtual programs. Although we miss teaching in the classroom, we are thrilled that we are now able to educate even more students and broaden our impact to all 50 states. Our new distance learning program includes video lessons, scripted lesson plans, and supplemental material such as worksheets, games, citizen science projects, and interactive activities for the classroom and home. We also offer virtual live STEM lessons taught by Planet Bee Educators. As always, our lessons are offered at no or very low-cost thanks to the generous grant contributions, corporate partner sponsorships, and individual donors. Visit our webpage to learn more about these sweet as honey educational opportunities and watch our program trailer here!

High School Students at Peralta Hacienda learn about bee hives for our master beekeeper

As the year begins to come to an end, we are thrilled that over 17,000 (and counting) students have been provided with our programs and that more teachers and educators are signing up for lessons every day. Over 95% of our lessons are provided at no cost in our commitment to social justice.

We’d like to shout out a special thanks to CodeCrew, who created our beautiful newsletters, in-kind, from June through December.

A huge thank you to our grantmakers, Manitou Foundation, Clif Bar Foundation, Mary Crocker Trust, and the Good Gigs Project/VMWare Foundation for their generous contributions, which have provided Planet Bee E-STEM lessons to high needs school at no cost.

A gigantic thank you to all of our generous donors, sponsors, and corporate partners who have enabled us to educate the future change-makers of tomorrow.

Lastly, a special thank you for the hard work and devotion of our interns and volunteers who supported Planet Bee during the difficulties of the pandemic. Because of you all, we are able to help to change the world, one bee, and one mind at a time!


Written by Clara Pitsker & Ellie Pumpkin

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