Aromatic Entrepreneurs

By Eve Pranis

When Christine Staskiewicz invited a local farmer and hydroponic grower to talk to her fourth grade students in Westport, Ma, about growing herbs in their GrowLab, she had hoped the students would be inspired to try raising herbs hydroponically and in soil. This project blossomed into a year-long, multidisciplinary herb-growing business that featured lessons in plant needs, hydroponics, economic, marketing, and cuisine.

With simulated loan "start-up" funds and herb growing advice from a local growers' association, students chose crops, then worked in teams to plant, tend, and keep records on their hydroponic and soil-based basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parley, and Italian parsley seedlings. While herbs were growing, the class invited some real chefs in to share information and prepare foods, from stuffings to omelettes, incorporating different herbs.

"After transplanting the herbs into more than 350 pots, and finding temporary homes throughout the school, students wondered about actually selling their bounty," says Christine. A marketing consultant came to class to discuss packaging and advertising, and inspired students to design and produce their own labels that sported their Kids Growers, Inc. logo.

"The financial aspects of this endeavor had a real impact on these kids," says Christine. "When choosing packaging materials, students were very cost conscious, understanding that their loan had limits and that they had to make tough decisions and keep careful records if they were going to make a profit."

Students created advertising posters, then sold their herb plants at a school wide family fair. "One of the biggest gains," says Christine, "was that the students saw results of their work. They learned about teamwork, financing, decision-making, and learned from real entrepreneurs about how businesses operate."

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