Students analysing and taking pictures of flowers
Image credit: Pollenize CIC
Title: Make Space for BEES – Biodiversity Engagement in Environment and Schools 
Funder and duration: AHRC Design Exchange Partnership – Biodiversity; February 2024 – February 2025
Location: Plymouth, UK
Project partners: University of Plymouth, Pollenize
University of Plymouth staff: Professor Katharine Willis, Ms Ashita Gupta
This project is funded by the AHRC Design Exchange Partnership (DEP). DEPs are three-way collaborative projects which seek to demonstrate tangible impact on local communities by stimulating the real-world application of high-quality arts and humanities-led design research to address challenges related to achieving green transition goals.


The Make Space for BEES project will develop design-led solutions to address specific challenges facing biodiversity through developing a rewilding tool to be used by younger people to support pollinator habitats. This project will address the challenge of how to enable young people to take action to address biodiversity challenges. It will empower them to act and see tangible changes in their local environment - their school grounds. The project will work collaboratively in a place-based approach with the innovative organization Pollenize and younger people through five secondary schools in Cornwall, UK to cocreate innovative design solutions that enable the project to have meaningful impact on the green transition. 

Our partner: Pollenize CIC 

Pollenize CIC was founded by born and bred Plymouthians, Matthew Elmes and Owen Finnie in 2018. Five years on since their humble beginnings, Pollenize has been catapulted on an incredible journey fuelled by a sheer fascination with all pollinators, their crucial role for a healthy planet and most importantly what we can do as humans to protect them. 
Through academic partnerships, innovation and AI technology, Pollenize is developing new ways to track and improve biodiversity so insects can recover, and our environment can flourish. As a result, the social enterprise has gained huge momentum, leading them to become a key player in driving environmental research and social change within the city and beyond.

Design Exchange Partnerships 

Design Exchange Partnerships are three-way collaborative projects that offer early career researchers and research organisations the opportunity to collaborate with UK-based non-academic partners, embedding highly qualified arts and humanities-led design researchers on short-term, intensive placements. The partnerships seek to demonstrate tangible impact on local communities by stimulating the real-world application of high-quality arts and humanities-led design research to address challenges related to achieving green transition goals. 
The School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Plymouth is exploring design approaches to low carbon, inclusive and digital futures working in partnership with place based communities.

Project aims

  • Test: Create pathways to action/tools for caring for the environment
  • Engage: Engage young people with biodiversity using creative spatial tools, working with bees as a key driver of biodiversity ecosystems
  • Adopt a place-based approach to enable young people to take action in their local environment. 
  • Innovate: Develop creative digital tools and engagement materials that can be used at scale by groups working with younger people (e.g. schools)
  • Impact: Inform the nature recovery/biodiversity net gain agenda
Two men in beekeeping suits holding a beehive
Image credit: Pollenize CIC
Students analysing and taking pictures of flowers
Butterfly and bee on flower

Biodiversity Engagement in Schools

The research will be undertaken in Cornwall, UK. Cornwall’s wildlife trends broadly mirror national trends (View Cornwall’s first State of Nature report), with habitat fragmentation and loss affecting species abundance (number of species) and distribution (where they are found). Cornwall is one of five Local Nature Recovery pilot projects chosen by DEFRA in England (Cornwall Council & Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, 2021). The Cornwall Local Nature Recovery Pilot will specify how Cornwall will achieve a target of 30% of the land and seas of Cornwall and Scilly being positively managed for nature by 2030. 
School grounds are a key space where young people engage regular with nature. The Children’s People and Nature Survey for England 2020 showed that 85% of children spend time outdoors every day while at school, but only 50% of the time outside of term time. This shows that schools represent a valuable space to engage young people with taking action for biodiversity and local habitats for pollinators such as bees. 
Further, children in more deprived neighbourhoods typically spend less time in green and blue spaces. Therefore, we will engage with young people from schools located in deprived neighbourhoods in order to give them tools and agency to take action in a local green space which they engage with daily. These schools are in the bottom 20% of most deprived areas in UK. 
Young people sitting in the grass writing notes for a biodiversity project
Screen showing an apiary pollen report for March to August 2021
Image credit: Pollenize CIC


We will take a co-design approach to prototype a series of digital tools and resources working with younger people in a place-based approach. We will develop a digital biodiversity toolkit comprising of the following
Citizen science tools for data gathering and monitoring
  • Biodiversity data gathering linked to inaturalist platform 
  • Geo located biodiversity monitoring in School grounds using geofence to create a project 
  • Bioblitz activity guide
Map and data platform to record biodiversity
  • data input for continuous observations and monitoring – impact
  • data dashboard to display live real time data – display on website
Physical space on school grounds
  • Each school will create a biodiversity patch 
  • Pollenize will supply seeds to plant using the Floradex tool which identifies the pollinator friendly plants required in a specific location. 


The project will create pathways to environmental citizenship by giving young people tools to proactively support and protect pollinating insects. In doing so it will actively contribute to increasing the abundance and diversity of pollinating insects in school grounds and local community spaces. We will work in Cornwall in a place based approach but in alignment with regional and national strategies from the National Education Nature Park project and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to explore opportunities to inform wider initiatives. Our project in Cornwall aligns directly with the aims of the National Education Nature Park to engage more children and young people with nature and to increase the biodiversity across the educational estates – making, as it were, one big Nature Park and this creates a pathway to wider and national level impact.
Beekeepers in bee keeping suits work on multiple bee hives
Image credit: Pollenize CIC