A lot of attention is swarming around a new addition to the agriculture science program at Westminster High School, which recently added 60,000 honey bees.
Tucked behind the school’s football field is an 8-acre farm where the program gives students a supervised agriculture experience complete with an array of animals, a fully-functional aquaponics system, a greenhouse and more. It’s a chance for educators to apply a hands-on education approach with agriculture, one of California’s leading industries, all while having students cultivate fresh produce for families in need.
Two teachers are leading the program by guiding 15 students in creating California’s first high school beekeeping program with support from Jon Poto, the owner of a family-owned raw honey business called Honey Pacifica, who has signed on as a consultant for the class.
“The most important insect in agriculture is the honeybee,” Dave Eusantos, agricultural instructor at Westminster High, shared. “By having the students learn about the lifecycle and the products that you’re able to get from the honeybees, it really ties in the different parts of agriculture — the crop production side of it to the specialty products that can be made from the honey that you can get from the bees as well.”
There will be opportunities for other students on campus to be part of the process. Students who are part of the campus’ virtual enterprise program will create and run a business around the program and the products they’ll make using the honey that is expected to be harvested in August or September. Students who are part of the special education program on campus will be trained on how to sell the products to their peers.
“All of this is really going to touch multiple facets on our campus, and this is one of the reasons why this program was a priority,” Westminster High School Principal Amy Sabol said. “Letting our students interact across curriculums was a major plus.”
One of the students in the program is Mayra Bahena, who said her mother always told her to stay away from bees. Now she has found herself wearing a beekeeping suit a few times a week.
“Bees are essential to planet Earth and our ecosystem,” she said.
Bahena, a junior, is a leader in her school’s chapter of the Future Farmers of America program, a student organization focused on leadership and career opportunities through agriculture education. She isn’t sure if the field will be something she will pursue after high school, but she believes this program has opened her eyes to how important bees are for the human population.
“It’s all very beneficial, not only to us, but also to the diversity we have on the Earth,” Bahena shared.
Westminster High secured the program through a partnership with the Community Action Partnership of Orange County and funds from United States Department of Agriculture funds.
The school’s first batch of honey could be harvested by August or September.