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Pumpkin patch payday: Leawood fifth-graders get a lesson in business

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By Deborah Swearingen

A random pumpkin donation from Mueller’s Little Farm inspired an unexpected lesson in business for Leawood Elementary School fifth-graders last week.

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Fifth-grade teacher Peter Lomba received a call from the small family farm saying they had extra pumpkins that likely would not make it through the weekend. Their proposal quickly morphed into a teaching moment for Lomba. He decided his students could sell the pumpkins. Through doing so, they learned the ins and outs of running a small business, and they raised money for a new water bottle refilling station to be installed at Leawood.

To start with, Lomba split the students into a variety of groups based on their skills. One weighed the pumpkins and priced them by weight. Another designed the pumpkin patch and organized the pumpkins. A third served as the marketing team, making signs and preparing a video for the school’s newscast.

“This is our biggest in-a-day project,” Lomba said, noting he’s never tried to do anything similar with his students before.

The kids worked quickly, though. Within a day, the front of the school easily passed as an impromptu pumpkin patch. The pumpkins, ranging in size and color, were arranged creatively around the grass. In one spot, the students spelled out the word “BOO” with the pumpkins. In another, there was a festive seat made of hay bales where people could take a photo for an additional cost.

Sydney Patik, 10, called the project “difficult,” while Nyla Dreyfuss, 10, said it could best be described as “stressful.”

Despite this, they both agreed they learned a lot.

“It’s just a lot of teamwork and flexible stuff,” Sydney said.

“It’s kind of getting ready for actual life,” she later added.

Nyla had similar thoughts, saying the pumpkin patch project taught them to think on their toes and work fast — a skill that can be necessary in any line of work.

“Today was a lot of problem solving,” she said.

Sydney and Nyla were on the marketing team alongside Winston Pham, 10, and Haley Palmer, 10. In addition to creating posters and other promotional items, Winston said another marketing strategy included working to spread the word with the younger Leawood students.

“We’re trying to convince the little kids to try to convince their parents,” he said, adding that the experience taught them “how to make a mini-business.”

If last Monday was any indication, the pumpkin patch was a smashing success. Before the patch was officially complete, the students celebrated their first $2 pumpkin sale.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.