MUKILTEO — The semester starts with students getting their hands dirty and ends with them seeing green.
Green stuff to eat and to spend.
It’s a horticultural internship of sorts for 17 students in Georgia McClaskey’s third-period Functional Life Academics class at Kamiak High School.
The life skills students put on an annual two-week spring sale with hundreds of plants. But it isn’t about making money. It’s about making a resume. And sharing the results of their hard work.
“You know how we grew the plants? From seeds,” freshman Sophia Albright said. “I helped with them all.”
Sophia knows all the sprouts by name.
“Sweet bell pepper. Roma tomatoes. Jack o’ lanterns, jalapeno, chives, squash, sage and basil,” she said on a tour of the greenhouse goods.
Even those plants needing a little more TLC are given a second chance to find a home.
“There’s a clearance rack,” Sophia said.
McClaskey’s students run every aspect of the sale, from custodian to CEO.
Prices are dirt-cheap — 25 cents to $2. Customer service is top-notch.
Students are personal shopping concierges. Holding a clipboard, they escort customers through the aisles and select the best looking plants. They calculate cost and count out the change.
Not only that, they answer questions and advise.
Sophomore Myron Swimmer is an expert on a garden variety of plants.
Pumpkins need a lot of space, he warns.
The cosmos get pretty enough to eat. “When they bloom out, they’re edible,” he said.
As for the jalapeños, he advises caution. “They’re pretty hot. I’ve tried them before.”
Want to know about basil?
Just ask freshman Alana Escobar.
“It smells good,” she said. “And you can put it on spaghetti.”
Alana praised her fellow students for the bounty of plants.
“Everybody works as a team,” she said. “It’s fun.”
The class also does service projects, such as landscaping the “K” in front of the school with seasonal plants. This includes pulling weeds. It’s all part of the internship.
In McClaskey’s multi-grade classroom, students also get specialized instruction in academics and vocational areas.
“We focus on functional life skills that are going to prepare them for employment and future independent living situations,” the teacher said. “So we do a lot with money and daily living skills and cooking and things that prepare them to be an active member of Mukilteo.”
After graduation, many students go to the school district’s Community Based Transition Center program for ages 18 to 21.
At Kamiak, students join others for electives. Most are in the unified sports that has teams comprised of students with and without disabilities to compete side-by-side in school events and athletic competitions.
“It creates more of an inclusive environment,” McClaskey said.
The plant sale is held during lunch hours so all Kamiak students can shop. The sale is open to the public. Every year it draws more people.
This year’s sale, which ended this week, raised a record $2,200.
“It allows this program to be sustainable. We are able to buy the dirt and all the supplies,” she said. “We use it for extracurriculars to get our students out in the community.”
For Myron, that’s a bonus.
“I really want to take that field trip,” he said. “Last year we went to Seattle Pacific Science Center and it was so fun.”
Some funds also go toward a weekly meal the students cook.
“They plan their meals and figure out what they need to buy,” McClaskey said. “We’ve made quesadillas and chili. Things they can take home and do on their own.”
Some of the plants are used in the meals. So far, the cosmos have not been on the menu.