Olympia Girl Scout’s project will keep school garden buzzing

The Giving Garden was abuzz with activity last week.

Sixteen-year-old Jennifer Kabat installed several pollinator boxes inside the garden that’s between Avanti High School and Madison Elementary School in Olympia.

The goal of the project, which she calls “Pollinate and Educate,” is to increase the population of non-stinging bees and other pollinators in the garden, Kabat said.

“Bees never go a football field from where they’re (hatched),” she said.

The Avanti junior took on the project as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

She’s one of seven girls from Troop 40314 working on their Gold Awards, according to their leader Leann Caranci. Their projects vary greatly, and include collecting used musical instruments for students in need, a recycling project at an elementary school and collecting cell phones for domestic violence victims.

The Gold Award is the highest achievement for Girl Scouts, and most projects take about a year to finish, Caranci said.

“It has to sustain after they’ve left,” she said. “They are leaving their mark on the world.”

Kabat said she got the idea for her project from her sustainable agriculture teacher.

She worked with bee expert and naturalist Glen Buschmann of Bees, Birds & Butterflies in Olympia.

The simple design they came up with is similar to a birdhouse frame, covered in chicken wire. Inside, there are logs with different size holes for the bees to nest in.

“Once a bee finds it, then they’ll return the next year and fill it,” Buschmann said.

He said the project will serve as an educational demonstration while creating some much-needed habitat for non-stinging bees, which are important pollinators in South Sound.

“Bees — not just honeybees — are responsible for fruits on our tables and seeds that are produced,” Buschmann said. “A whole lot of the food supply is dependent on insect pollination.”

Since the boxes were built for school district property, Kabat presented the project to the Olympia School Board and its administrative team.

“A lot of it’s been meeting with people, planning it out and getting approval,” she said.

So far, the teen estimates that it’s taken about 80 hours for research, collecting donations for materials and working in the wood shop and garden.

And the project isn’t complete: Kabat plans to install signs about the boxes in the garden, and keep track of how much they are used by non-hive dwelling bees, such as mason and carpenter bees.

She plans to track students’ knowledge about bees, as well, said her mom, Brenda Kabat.

“It’s a lot more than just putting up some boxes,” her mom said. “I’m amazed at what she’s learned and done.”