Oh, honey! Wichita school’s beehive project reaps sweet rewards

A busy, buzzing summer at Coleman Middle School has reaped sweet rewards.

The east Wichita school will begin selling honey from its on-site beehive during enrollment starting Monday. Students also saved a portion of the hive to enter in the Kansas State Fair.

“The bees have done their part,” said Jared Hall, a Coleman science teacher who oversees the hive and an outdoor garden project at the school. “They’ve worked and they’ve respected us and haven’t messed with us. … Everything’s just been a lot of fun.”

Earlier this year, Coleman became home to the area’s first school-based honeybee hive, thanks to a grant from Whole Foods through its Whole Kids Foundation.

Britt Hopper, a local beekeeper, installed a hive with about 30,000 honeybees near an exterior wall in Hall’s classroom. Students in the school’s summer program have cared for the hive as well as for the numerous fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants in the outdoor garden.

The bees multiplied. Thanks to regular checks by Hopper, who thwarted potentially devastating hive beetles, the hive is expected to peak at more than 200,000 bees before it begins to go dormant in colder weather.

Hopper helped students harvest the first pieces of unprocessed beeswax and honey, which they plan to sell for $2 an ounce beginning Monday. Small pieces will go for $3 to $5 and larger chunks for up to $20, Hall said.

The students “are very excited and surprised that people are noticing us and talking about the honey,” Hall said. “They’ve been doing really, really good work, and I’ve been really proud of them.”

Bright orange labels designate the honey as organic. The labels feature Coleman’s signature Cougar paw and the “#HoneyDomes” hashtag, a nod to the middle school’s distinctive domed architecture.

In addition to being sweet and delicious, organic local honey contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and is thought to help alleviate some health concerns, Hall said. He has spread bits of the edible beeswax on toast, put it atop oatmeal and melted it in hot tea.

Coleman students recently took a field trip to Churn and Burn, a Wichita ice cream and coffee shop, where employees whipped up some honey-flavored ice cream using the school’s honey.

“That was very delicious,” Hall said.

The school’s initial harvest is expected to sell quickly. Hall said they wanted to make it available to parents who have supported the kids’ efforts, so they decided to offer it during enrollment, which begins at noon Monday.

In coming months the school hopes to market its product to Churn and Burn, The Donut Whole and Dappery Dodo Breakfast Burritos, a local food truck, as well as make it available at Whole Foods. Proceeds will go toward field trips and other garden activities, Hall said.

“The kids, they know that what we’re doing actually does have real-world implications because they’re getting to see it,” he said.

“They know the things that we do here in Garden Club are not things that are only going to stay in school. They’re things that are going to help build their futures.”

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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