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Mind Your Own Beeswax

Grade Levels

6 - 8

Purpose

Through project-based learning, students will solve the problem of excess beeswax, a byproduct of honey bees, by developing a useful beeswax product and marketing their product to be sold in a local boutique or farmers market.

Estimated Time

Ten 45-minute class periods

Materials Needed

Milestone 1: Entry Event

Milestone 2: Planning and Design

Milestone 3: Prototype

  • How Burt's Bees Lip Balms are Made video
  • Hot plate or stove top
  • Small sauce pan
  • Glass jars (8 oz or 236 mL)
  • Glass jars (4 oz or 118 mL)
  • Hot pad
  • Measuring spoons (tablespoon or mL)
  • Water
  • Wax paper
  • Beeswax pellets*
  • Coconut oil*
  • Shea butter*
  • Pipettes*
  • Stir sticks*
  • Flavor oil*
  • Lip balm tubes*
  • Portion cups,* 1 per team
  • Cotton swabs, 1 per student
  • Team notebook

*These items are included in the Beeswax Lip Balm Kit, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.

Milestone 4: Marketing Plan and Final Product Presentation

Vocabulary Words

beeswax: a substance secreted from glands located on the underside of a worker bee's abdomen

byproduct: something that is made in addition to or that is left over from the production of the desired good

cell: a hexagonal wax chamber built from beeswax for brood rearing and storage of honey and pollen

hive: a home to a colony of bees

honeycomb: six-sided wax cells in a beehive

Background Agricultural Connections

Mind Your Own Beeswax is a Project-Based Learning (PBL) plan. PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.1 A quality PBL experience requires seven essential elements. 

  1. Challenging Problem or Question: The project is framed by a meaningful problem to be solved or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.
  2. Sustained Inquiry: Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of posing questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  3. Authenticity: The project involves real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact, or the project speaks to personal concerns, interests, and issues in the students' lives.
  4. Voice and Choice: Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
  5. Reflection: Students and teachers reflect on the learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, and obstacles that arise and strategies for overcoming them.
  6. Critique and Revision: Students give, receive, and apply feedback to improve their process and products.
  7. Public Product: Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying, and/or presenting it to audiences beyond the classroom.2

Beeswax

When people think about products from honey bees, they typically think about honey first. Honey is the only food produced by insects that is eaten by humans on a wide scale. A valuable byproduct of honey production is beeswax. Beeswax is used to make candles, artists' materials, lubricants, polishes, and cosmetics. It is a substance secreted from the glands located on the underside of a worker bee's abdomen. Bees require the protein from pollen and the carbohydrates from honey to create beeswax. It takes 6-10 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax, which is enough to construct 35,000 cells within a hive. The wax is used by the bees to form cells within the hive for honey storage and to protect eggs, larvae, and pupae through the process of metamorphosis. To form the beeswax into honeycombs, the bees chew and mold the wax into hexagon-shaped cells.

Honey bees use the nectar they gather from flowers to make honey, which is stored in the hive's cells. The bees cap off each cell with wax to prevent moisture loss. When beekeepers harvest honey, they collect the frames from the hive and use a hot knife to remove the wax cappings. The wax is taken to a capping tank and the frames are placed in an extractor to spin out the honey. Heat is applied to the wax cappings, causing the honey and wax to liquify and separate. The residual honey is then filtered out. Most commercially available beeswax comes from wax cappings.

Important

Career Highlights
This PBL plan introduces students to the following career opportunities: apiary worker/beekeeper, accountant, marketing specialist, graphic designer, business manager, general and operations managerretail salesperson, customer service representative, advertising and promotions manager, advertising sales agentsecretary. Explore the career profiles to discover job outlooks, education requirements, and average salaries.

 

Interest Approach - Engagement

At the beginning of the project, students are introduced to key content using a compelling situation that provides context and serves as a catalyst for an authentic problem or challenge. In Project-Based Learning (PBL), this authentic problem/challenge is referred to as an "Entry Event." Students use the Entry Event to initiate inquiry by reflecting on their prior knowledge of the key content, generating questions that they need to know the answers to in order to successfully complete the project or process that will solve the problem, and identifying what their next steps might be to answer their questions. These questions are used in an ongoing way throughout the project to track learning and guide inquiry.3 While students may have several questions, one driving question needs to be agreed upon that, when answered, should address the initial situation. Refer to Milestone 1 for Entry Event procedures.

Procedures

In PBL, projects are organized into milestones. Each milestone represents a significant stage of the project. Click on each milestone below to access instructional procedures. 

Milestone 1: Entry Event (approximately 1 day)

Milestone 2: Planning and Design (approximately 2 days)

Milestone 3: Prototype (approximately 3 days)

Milestone 4: Marketing Plan and Final Product Presentation (approximately 4 days)

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:

As a final wrap-up, review and summarize the following key points:

  • A valuable byproduct of honey production is beeswax.
  • Beeswax is a substance secreted from the glands located on the underside of the worker bee's abdomen and requires the protein from pollen and the carbohydrates from honey to be created.
  • Beeswax is used by bees to form cells within the hive for honey storage and to protect eggs, larvae, and pupae through the process of metamorphosis.
  • Beeswax is used to make candles, artists' materials, lubricants, polishes, and cosmetics.

Important
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!

 

Author

Melia Balls, Lynn Wallin, & Debra Spielmaker

Organization Affiliation

National Center for Agricultural Literacy