“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, 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.