Community buzzes about Glenvar lip balm as students learn through experience


SALEM, Va. – The Glenvar community is buzzing about a new product students at Glenvar High School are working on as part of a science experiment. 

They’re using beeswax from a hive at the school to create soaps and lip balms that are being sold to students and in some local shops. 

From the science classes that are making the lip balm, to the marketing students that make the label and set the price, and even the woodworking classes that helped to build the hive – this is a project that students at Glenvar High School are proud of. 

“Everybody loves it,” says Jacob Auen, a junior. “Teachers, students, everybody in the community just raves about it and always wants more.”

“We can’t keep it,” agrees junior, Alexis Williams. “We have to come in and make more because we just can’t keep it [in stock].”

A science teacher at the school, Charlie Filer, had the idea back in January during a snow day. He says he wanted to try and make more products from the beehive at the school.

As part of the lip balm production, students learn about the hive. They talk about bees and the hive as a form of agriculture and learn how the beeswax is made. Then, they use a double boiling method to melt that wax down into a liquid that can be used to make the balm. 

“Seeing it come from the beehive, turning it into the beeswax and the beeswax going into the final products, it’s really interesting to watch,” says science student Kira Pierce. 

It’s a method Mr. Filer says took some experimentation and a few trial and errors before it was just right. 

“The first batch we had was a little bit too hard -- too much beeswax,” says Filer. “The next class we modified a little bit, we took out too much beeswax and it was a little bit too soft. But by the third batch we had it. I think we have a really great product.”

And that final batch is the recipe they’ve stuck with since production started just two months ago. 

The project started at the beginning of 2018, with Filer’s ecology class students making the lip balm and his science club students making the soap. Students say it’s exciting to put the books down and get their hands dirty, while learning about reactions, beehives as a form of agriculture and other important lessons. 

“Being able to come to science club and make the soap, using the lye and making it right in front of you and seeing that reaction is really cool,” says science club member, McKenna Shearer.

Filer says he’s seen visible growth in his students and their abilities as they’ve gotten more involved in the projects. 

“When I ask them to do something that’s more hands-on, they usually get really excited about it. With this one they just really flourished,” says Filer. “Students who don’t have the best grades tended to be the ones who responded the best to it and did absolutely outstanding. So it’s really rewarding to see them step up and do such a great job on these projects.”

Marketing students came up with the design idea, using the Glenvar “G” as well as the school’s green and gold colors in the logo. They also set the price at $2, about a dollar less than most nationally sold lip balms. 

Students put the label on the lip balm and use shrink wrap to create a safety seal, just like what you’d buy in the store.

Within the first week of selling the lip balm they call G-Bees, Filer says the project broke even on its budget. Now local shops like the Glenvar Minute Mart and Salem Museum are selling the lip balm as well. 

Each project the science students to do works to fund the next project. Filer was able to pay for the supplies for the soap and lip balm with proceeds from pepper jelly students made in the fall, using peppers grown in the school's greenhouse. Now that they’ve broken even on the lip balm, profits are going into an account to help find future science projects at the school. 

Filer says the next step is to start honey extraction. They’re hoping to get into the beehive and start harvesting the honey soon.