“Planting Seeds for the Future” is an entrepreneurial/garden project based at Border Star Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri. Working with students in grades 4-6 “Planting Seeds” weaves together themes of financial literacy, small business development, creative writing, and critical thinking all centered on the student run and maintained urban garden. Upper Elementary students will have the opportunity to create their own businesses, with unique marketing, logos and sales ideas generated by the students’ research and production in raised garden beds. Students will maintain journals, create visual art and creative writing projects, conduct research, explore issues of health and wellness, organic gardening, sustainability as well as social and environmental issues centered on food. Planting Seeds seeks to implement steps designed to engage students in positive creative actions, analytical and critical thinking aimed at ending poverty and creating socially & environmentally conscious citizens. Planting Seeds for the Future is made possible by a generous grant from the United Services Community Action Agency and is sponsored through the University of Missouri-Kansas City Division of Diversity, Access & Equity.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Grow lights and a jump on Spring

This past week the students finally got a chance to get back outside and to actually plant something.  Still too early for the actual garden beds, the students dusted off the grow lights and planted a variety of spring seeds including Arugula, Cilantro, Spinach, Broccoli, some Cabbage and a beautiful gourmet salad greens mix.  The students worked as teams with each team in charge of one variety and each team will also take rotating responsibilities for watering and grow light maintenance.   The seeds have only been in the soil for six days and we already have sprouts.  We are off to a great start on our spring schedule.  Thanks to Andrea and the entire staff of Kansas City Community Gardens for all your help and guidance.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Budget Cuts and Possible Program Cancellation

The Border Star students have been hard at work this past month with focused attention to issues centered on food, food production and issues of fast food, America's diet and related health concerns.

Recently, the Division of Diversity, Access and Equity was informed that funding for The Pipeline Program is in jeopardy due to the President’s proposed budget cuts. As you know, our programs serve hundreds of children in the Kansas City, Missouri School District, as well as provide job opportunities for many UMKC Students.

The students have gained so much from the Planting Seeds Program including a deeper understanding of finance, business and of course gardening.  But perhaps more importantly the students have gained a powerful sense of control, optimism and self-confidence that will serve them throughout their lives.  It is hard to imagine that these gains could be cut so swiftly leaving the students to suffer.

Today, we ask for your voice. Please contact Senators McCaskill and Blunt and Congressman Cleaver asking them to reinstate full funding for Community Service Block Grants and Community Action Agencies Operational Funds.

Claire McCaskill

Roy Blunt

Rep. Cleaver

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day Sale

Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the Planting Seeds Valentine’s Day Sale.  In honor of both Valentine’s Day and the beauty of the garden, the Border Star students voted to invest in roses for their February 14th sale.  The roses were beautiful and the support amazing.  The Valentine’s Day Sale was a huge success, nearly selling out and providing a valuable good on Valentine’s Day. Thank you to the students who worked so hard during the sale and thank you to the amazing group leaders who always go beyond expectations and consistently save the day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Holiday Sales Event

December was an exciting and productive time for the Planting Seeds students. The Paperwhites that the students planted were growing rapidly and on track to bloom right before the Holiday Sales event scheduled for December 14-16. To increase and diversify our offerings the students voted to create hand-made soap as their next project. Each student created three distinct and beautiful types of soap. To tie into class topics of environmental impact and recycling the student worked together to save a large number of the small milk cartons from their lunches to be used as molds for the first soap creation. After these were cleaned and trimmed down they made perfect, square soap molds. On day one of the soap making project each student created a small 2x2 inch work of art in permanent marker. These brightly colored works of art were then placed in the bottom of their recycled molds then melted, clear soap base was poured over the top. The result was a fun, personalized, creative gift that added a great deal to our project and the Holiday Sale. Thank you to our Group Leader Emily for this inspired idea.

Having learned a great deal from the absolute chaos of day one (the need to melt soap base for 75 students with one small microwave) we approached day two armed with new equipment and ideas. Two large capacity crockpots kept a batch of olive oil based soap and a batch of goat’s milk based soap in liquid form so that students had the time to create two new soaps. Staying true to our goal of remaining connected to the garden, the soaps for day two were created with healthy natural ingredients. Using the creamy white goat’s milk base, lavender buds, lavender oil and purple coloring the students created really beautiful pale purple lavender soap circles. The second bar was much bolder in scent and presentation. Using the olive oil base, oats and ground cinnamon, the students created a really great looking and highly fragrant cinnamon-oatmeal soap bar that was a hit at the Holiday Sale.

Additional classes in December were filled with “putting the garden to bed,” marketing analysis, creating the marketing posters, working on packaging and presentation, and preparing for the sales event. The Holiday Sale was the most successful to date. The table was beautiful, showcasing the hand-painted pots and fragrant Paperwhites on each side and centered with massive amounts of handcrafted soap. The students, teachers and group leaders put in a great deal of hard work and their dedication and focus truly paid off.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by the sale and supported our project.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Salsa Sale

From early on in the development of the Planting Seeds project we wanted the majority of decisions to come directly from the students. In selecting which projects to pursue, I proposed many different entrepreneurial/garden ideas to the students and encouraged them to add their own concepts. Throughout these brainstorming sessions the number one request from the students was to make and sell their own salsa. As a foodie, I thought that this was a beautiful idea – fresh ingredients taken by the students and turned into a delicious product that people would really enjoy. Everyone involved was excited about the project, yet I must admit that I spent several sleepless nights wrestling with the insane logistics of the task. These logistics included purchasing the correct quantities of produce, purchasing, storing and transporting a wide range of kitchen equipment, finding a suitable classroom space to work in, engaging 75 students in the process of making salsa, and getting the salsa made and packaged in our half hour class period. To top this off were the troubling visions of a crowded classroom and too many 10 & 11 year olds with very sharp knives.

Salsa making day was truly a huge success and pleasure to be involved with. Although hectic and fast paced the day went off with little mess and only minor injuries. The students worked cleanly and were focused and disciplined and through strong teamwork they completed their batches of salsa within our short class period.

In the past all student sales events had taken place immediately after school. As the best time to attract the main target audience of parents and teachers, this was naturally our main focus. The problem was that many of the students could not stay after school to participate in the sales. In order to give those students the opportunity to be involved we decided to have both an after school sale and a lunch time sale. Students of all ages added to their lunch time meal with a small container of salsa and plate of chips. In addition to the small .50 chips and salsa, the students also offered an 8oz and 16 oz container for $3.00 and $5.00. Originally we had scheduled two afternoon and two lunch sales, but much to our surprise and pleasure the salsa sold out by the end of the second lunch, eliminating the need for the final sale.

Congratulation to all the Panting Seeds students and group leaders, your hard work and focus created a truly successful sales event. Thank you to Ms. Owens and her entire staff in the Border Star Kitchen for your support and help.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Forcing Paperwhites

One of the many challenges of the Planting Seeds Program is the contrast between the directive to use the garden as the center from which our activities and discussions are based and the many long months of winter and an inactive garden. To keep the students’ minds engaged with the rhythms of the garden and its entrepreneurial potential during the winter, we have naturally needed to shift from outdoor to indoor activities. This change from outdoor planting to indoor projects presents an entirely new set of challenges regarding light, space, access and the physical limitations of our short class period. It has been greatly rewarding to see how the students and the team of group leaders have faced each new project and corresponding challenges and remained focused, flexible and dedicated to the project’s success.

With the December holiday season fast approaching, we have selected to force Paperwhites as our first ever indoor project. These beautiful flowers will be grown with the hopes of adding them to the students’ up-coming holiday sale. To add to the beauty of the flowers and the economic value of their offerings each student hand-painted a small 6 inch pot in their own custom design. These hand-painted pots turned out far beyond any expectations with a wide array of designs from bold geometric patterns to bright flowers and beautiful abstractions.


On the following class period, after the hand-painted pots had a chance to dry we started the day with a brief discussion of bulbs, their mechanics and various parts. Armed with basic knowledge of bulbs, a cost analysis of the project and a vision of the future sale, each student then planted three Paperwhite bulbs in their custom pots and stowed them carefully away in the only space we could find – a dark stairwell.

Currently the bulbs are growing well and are on track to bloom just in time for the “Planting Seeds for the Future” holiday sale scheduled for December 14th, 15th and 16th at the Border Star school.  Thank you to Planter's Seeds in Kansas City for your assistance with the bulbs and a special thank you to Border Star Principal Ms. Langston for the beautiful new garden furniture and for creating such a wonder space for the students to work and enjoy the garden.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Arugula, Salad Greens and Radishes - Oh My!

This past week was an exciting time for the “Planting Seeds” program as the Upper Elementary students hosted their first sales event. For the past two months the students have been creating business ideas, business plans and marketing plans while simultaneously growing lush garden beds filled with arugula, a mix of salad greens, cilantro and “Easter Egg” radishes. At last the time had come to put their hard work into action and sell their goods. The sales day was pure energy and a heavy dose of chaos as each of the three classes had to work as a team to harvest, clean, weigh and then bag the produce, as well as set up the sales tent with tables, chairs and banners. The students were focused and worked hard to create a quality product to sell and an inviting place to host their first customers. Several of the students even created a beautiful fresh flower arrangement for the sales table.

The sale itself was a joy to watch as crowds gathered at both sides of the tables with about twenty students working on one side and a large gathering of parents and community members shopping on the other side. The sale was an amazing success from all possible angles. The students’ hard work was rewarded with an enthusiastic response from their customers who in-turn got some great fresh, organic student grown produce. While no one will be retiring early with the proceeds from the week, the sale was a wonderful financial success as well. Thank you to the Chef/Restaurateur from “Room 39” who made a sizable purchase for that evening’s menu at the restaurant. Once again a special thank you is in order for the incredible group leaders Phillip, Benita, Jeff and Emily who really made this event happen. And, thank you to everyone who stopped by the sales tent and supported these students.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Marketing Mix with Jennifer Wolfsie

I am continually amazed at the depth of talent and the great passion and energy of the parents in the Border Star community. And I am continually impressed with their willingness to give of their valuable time, their priceless expertise, and great advice to the students. This richness of talent and commitment was again made evident this past week when the Planting Seeds program had the great fortune to welcome Border Star parent and marketing expert Jennifer Wolfsie. Jennifer’s easy rapport with the students and her rich knowledge helped the students understand the complexities and the excitement of good marketing.

Jennifer began with issues of branding and brand identity which immediately got the students engaged as they recognized many of their favorite companies and products and began associating feelings that the these companies and their logos brought to mind. Jennifer then moved seamlessly into the 5 Ps of the marketing mix encouraging students to analyze their product, their price, the place, people and promotion of their business ideas. Students were then allowed to look at several examples of both strong and weak marketing pieces with discussions on layout and design principles that the students could use in their own posters or fliers. Jennifer Wolfsie’s presentation was a perfect mix of insight, motivation, technical vocabulary and great visuals while maintaining a positive and energetic atmosphere.

Thank you to Jennifer Wolfsie for all her amazing work, materials and knowledge and for making the marketing section of our course a fun, relaxed and informative time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Journal

While there are so many aspects of the Planting Seeds for the Future program that deeply appeal to me, perhaps the strongest is the journal. I first realized the importance and usefulness of a sketchbook/journal while working as a pastry chef. Each day, the sketchbook was used to record visual designs, recipes and observations that still serve me more than a decade later. Today, as a visual artist a sketch book/journal is a frequent companion and a powerful tool in capturing fleeting images, developing and refining ideas and producing finished pieces. As I began developing the Planting Seeds for the Future program with its strong emphasis on critical thinking and writing, I knew that the journal had to be at the heart of the learning experience.

But not just any journal.

While I am sure that some will argue with my logic, I immediately decided against the traditional ruled/lined journal deciding instead that students would be more open to personal expression with the blank pages of an artist’s sketchbook. I also wanted a sketchbook that students could personalize and really make their own. It seemed simple enough – an artist sketchbook with a plain cover, no manufacturer’s logos, with recycled, good quality paper. My ideal journal does exist, and with an unlimited budget could have been used for this program. However, with a realistic budget some sacrifices needed to be made and I finally decided on a beautiful new Strathmore “Visual Journal” that fit our needs nicely. With a plain cover and heavy duty mixed-media paper it is nearly the perfect journal for our students.

A full day was given to the personalization/decoration of the student’s journals. With the shopping genius of Donna Strickland of UMKC’s Division of Diversity, Access and Equity, the students were supplied with a staggering array of items to truly make their journals personal and meaningful, and to take ownership and pride in their sketchbooks. The students bring these books to each class, using them to record facts, thoughts, business ideas, personal observations and drawings. It is truly rewarding to see students writing freely, drawing abundantly and developing skills that will transcend the program.

Thank you to Donna Strickland for your hard work and attention to detail and thank you to Michelle at Creative-Coldsnow for your help in the search for the perfect journal and finding enough copies for our needs.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Vanessa Finley - Business Plan Development

One of the greatest rewards of the “Planting Seeds for the Future” project has been the overwhelming enthusiasm with-which the students have embraced their business ideas. This great reward has also led to one of the programs greatest challenges – tempering that enthusiasm with the slow, steady learning of key foundational business concepts. Each day, students passionately tell us about their plans, all of which are fun and engaging, many are potentially profitable and several are far beyond the time, finances and physical capabilities of the classroom. The true challenge is maintaining the deep interest and passion of these students while asking them to back up and build a solid base of business plans, cost analysis, marketing plans and more.

This past Tuesday the Border Star students began the challenging task of writing their business plans with the expert instruction and advice of Vanessa Finley. For over 12 years Vanessa Finley served as the Executive Director of the First Step Fund helping low and moderate income individuals with their small business development. Vanessa graciously took time from her busy schedule as CEO of Gilda's Club, Kansas City, to help the “Planting Seeds” students think critically about their ideas and to build a solid business plan. Vanessa let each class select a business idea for that day’s focus and then skillfully led the students through the business plan development using the six basic questions of What?, Who?, Why?, When?, Where?, and How? Each question brought the students to a fuller understanding of the complexity of a well-constructed business plan and the careful planning that must be part of their individual businesses. During Thursday’s class students applied these new skills and information to business plans for their own ideas. Students will present their business plans in class next week as we begin the process of selecting those ideas most viable for the constraints of our classroom. Thank you to Vanessa Finley for all your time, materials and support.