Wanda Small looks on as she supervises second-grade pupils during a 2017 STEAM lesson. This group of students are currently fourth-graders who make lemon-flavored lip balm and will graduate to make Tiger Orange flavored balm.

Elementary school children continue paving their way to obtain a greenhouse for the Atchison County Community Schools outdoor learning campus one lip balm tube at a time along with other funding contributions.

The Atchison County Community Elementary School Top Rural School Lip Balm project endeavor recently benefitted the ACCCS Outdoor Learning Campus $500 toward the greenhouse initiative.

ACCES Teacher Wanda Small and her second-grade pupils implemented the lip balm project during the 2016 spring semester. The youngsters made the balm from two agricultural products, beeswax and soybean oil. Then the children flavored their balm peppermint, Small said.

Their hands-on lesson also included studies about soybean farmers, soybean products and the process of how honeybees make beeswax during her science, technology, engineering, art, agriculture and math class time. Small said second-graders were also enlightened to entrepreneurial potential after they read a book about starting a business.

Within the past three years, Small transitioned from second grade teacher to project based learning and STEAM educator along with her role as an Outdoor Learning Center co-facilitator. In the meantime, the lip balm endeavor expanded to include the third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.

Small said each class has an assigned flavor. The second-graders continue to flavor their lip balm with peppermint. Gingerbread is the third grade flavor. Fourth grade pupils flavors their class work Lemon, Lavender flavor by fifth-graders and the sixth-graders have graduated up their skill level to Tiger Orange. The balm is hands-on for all students the ingredients are purchased from proceeds earned from the sales.

All the youngsters in grades second through sixth read the recipe, measure, pour and stir the ingredients in a small slow cooker, Small said. Then they pour their mixture into lip balm tubes. The pupils cap and clean off each tube. The sixth-graders made the labels and attached them to the tubes; even if they are crooked, it’s all part of the finished product. Presentation is also part of the entrepreneurial class subject.

“I talk to them about presentation of the product,” Small said. “They usually say they prefer not to have a crooked label.” Small continued “Its all part of the learning process and they learn by doing. “

The sixth-graders have the opportunities to volunteer to sell the balm during the morning in the hallway, Small said. In addition to their sales pitches, the volunteer seller records who buys the balm and how many are sold. Additionally, the volunteers keep track of the records and count back the change during the transactions, and the volunteers gain some real world sales experience from the start to consumers. “It is a real business for them,” Small said. “They have sold a lot of lip balm and that is helping our school and community. “

The money donated from the lip balm endeavor has been a way for the pupils to learn from their young age to do their part about giving back and community service.

The balm sells for a price of $2 a tube direct from the young entrepreneurs, Small said. It is available at the school. The class members have expanded their business to the Muscotah Mercantile available at a higher price for the in-store purchase convenience. If anyone from outside the area, or district would like to purchase some balm contact Small at small.wanda@usd377.org. Small has fulfilled orders up to 25 that went to a location across Kansas.

Throughout the year, the funding for the greenhouse continues to trickle in. During the April meeting, USD 377 Board of Education members unanimously accepted a $1,000 contribution from the ACCES Parent Teacher Organization towards the greenhouse.

Board members also accepted an additional $2,000 to top off the expected $3,000 grant award for the greenhouse by way of an Annie’s Grant. The total Annie’s Grant award is $5,000 for the 2019 grant cycle. The greenhouse endeavor also recently benefitted from a $1,000 Farm Bureau White Reinhardt Grant, $500 ADK, donation from the Alpha Delta Kappa teacher sorority and $1,000 from the Outdoor Learning Campus Funds.

Vo-Ag Instructor Kayla Bodenhausen Atchison County Community High School, serves as one of the outdoor learning campus facilitators.

Bodenhausen has recently applied for funding from a Farmers Grow Rural Education STEM Grant. Announcements of the awards are pending for late summer.

Earlier in the schoolyear, the proposed greenhouse also was awarded funding from Kansas Farm Bureau and the FFA Foundation.

The goal is to complete the greenhouse before the end of the 2019 -2020 schoolyear that fits into six-year plan for campus completion.

Bodenhausen and Small also serve on the Outdoor Learning Campus Committee along with USD 377 Superintendent Andrew Gaddis, ACCJSHS Principal Deanna Scherer and ACCES Principal Mandi McMilllan.

Mary Meyers can be reached at


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