“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.
Friday, December 3, 2010
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.
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
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.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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
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.
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
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
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.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
At the core of the “Planting Seeds for the Future” project is the goal of eliminating poverty and the belief that teaching young students to be financially literate is a giant step toward that goal. In an attempt to bring the most current and accurate information to the Border Star students and to reach out to our local business community we have been fortunate to form an alliance with Missouri Bank and their Brookside Branch Manager Jeff Curran. This week Jeff brought his enthusiasm and expert voice to giving the students some solid financial ideas and advice for their businesses and their futures. Focusing on the main concepts of Saving, Spending, and Sharing, Jeff used the students' business ideas and personal goals to illustrate a “big picture” view of the students' money and potential income. Paying yourself first, carefully budgeting for current needs and the all-important, giving back to the community were main topics of conversation. Jeff and Missouri Bank provided packets of well thought-out materials for students including personal budget sheets, business budget sheets and moon-jar savings banks. As students prepare for the launch of their businesses within the “Planting Seeds for the Future” project, these materials will prove invaluable and will provide a solid financial foundation that will help them succeed in business and in the future. A special thank you to Jeff Curran and Missouri Bank for their time, effort and willingness to collaborate and share this important information with the Border Star students.
Monday, September 13, 2010
From the very beginning of the Planting Seeds project, I knew that it would take a great deal of team-work to accomplish our various goals. This past Tuesday the Border Star students and the Planting Seeds staff truly embraced the collaborative, team-work spirit as they built and filled six new raised garden beds. It was exciting to see the students take ownership of the project and to see their planning and attention to detail pay off with such beautiful new garden spaces. The new beds are 4x8 feet and are divided two beds for each of the three Upper Elementary classes. Each class had a short 40 minute window in which to get basic instructions, construct and then fill their two beds. In my mind this seemed like plenty of time. Needless to say, I was greatly mistaken. Our goal was to give each of the 25 students in each class an opportunity to work on their two beds, so we shuffled the work around between all the students. The students and staff worked tirelessly and at the end of the school day we had only three of the six beds finished. At this point, with the students gone for the day, in the following 30 minutes the staff flew into action building the remaining three beds and with the help of Piper, Marlow, Ian and Emery we quickly filled two of the three beds with soil.
Thursday's classes had slightly better time management as the students worked together in their smaller teams to mathematically and seasonally plan out their garden plots, calculating number of plants, time to maturity and maximum yield before the first frost. After the planning challenge the individual teams planted their plots with a selection of quick fall crop seeds including Arugula, a Gourmet Lettuce Mix, Cilantro and Easter Egg Radishes. With luck the students will have a full crop of produce to begin their businesses with before winter sets in. What became clear as I watched the students and staff work, is that the success or failure of the crop is only one small facet of the Planting Seeds experience. The more important "seeds" that were planted in the garden this past week were the seeds of collaboration, team-work, pride in the results of hard work and a new and hopefully more profound connection with the earth and our food chain.
A special thank you to Andrea and Kansas City Community Gardens and a heart-felt thank you to Phillip, Benita, Jeff and Emily for your extra time and effort.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
After much anticipation and many sleepless nights the Planting Seeds for the Future project has officially begun. The schedule is Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, three 40 minute back-to-back classes of 25 students each with set up and clean up time before and after. The Planting Seeds classroom will move between the Library, the computer lab, and out in the garden. Our scheduled first day in the garden seemed in jeopardy when an hour before start time it was pouring rain. By the first class the bad weather had given way to blue skies, high temperatures and high humidity – muggy to say the least. The conditions may have not been perfect, but the team of group leaders was amazing; diving in immediately unloading materials and setting up two 10x10 tents. And even in the hot conditions the students were engaged, enthusiastic and full of great ideas about the project ahead. While the students will physically plant seeds in a few short days, the first “seeds” were really planted today as students discussed the benefits of entrepreneurship, the riches of the garden and the possibilities of the future.
Thank you to the group leaders for your hard work and contributions. Thank you to the Upper Elementary teachers for your organization and assistance. And a heart-felt thank you to the Upper Elementary Border Star students for making the launch of this program such a success.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
The beginning date for “Planting Seeds” (PS) is fast approaching and pieces of this giant undertaking are quickly falling into place. While I have known several of my staff members for some time, this week the PS team/staff had the opportunity to meet together for the first time. I am incredibly excited about the team we have in place for the PS project. Split equally between male and female, the staff is made up of a richly diverse group of highly motivated and talented individuals. The four Group Leaders who will join me each day in the classroom are Phillip Brown, Benita Jones, Jeff Visser and Emily Brendage-Hill. Each brings unique talents and strengths: Phillip Brown brings his incredible artistic talents and sensibilities, a sharp intellect and his dedication as a Border Star parent; Benita Jones is a UMKC art student who brings a strong art background, unique vision and energy to the project; Jeff Visser is a UMKC student with a background in biology and business who brings to the project a strong entrepreneurial and financial sensibility; and Emily Brendage-Hill, an art student at UMKC who brings her passion for art, food, cooking and life to round out the mix. Each Tuesday and Thursday the five of us will have the opportunity to assist the upper elementary students of Border Star Elementary as they build their gardens, their businesses and their awareness of the social, environmental and economic impact of their choices. I truly look forward to “Planting Seeds for the Future” as a project, a philosophy and a reality.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
“Planting Seeds for the Future” is an entrepreneurial/garden project based at Border Star Elementary School in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. 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 student’s 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 around 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 and environmentally conscious citizens. Planting Seeds for the Future is made possible by a generous grant from the United Services Community Action Agency and is administered through the University of Missouri-Kansas City Division of Diversity, Access & Equity.