Essential Lessons on Lavender
Target Grade Level / Age Range:
Grades 6th – 8th
Two class periods
Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system.
Students will learn how Iowa farmers can produce income by growing specialty crops like lavender and can benefit using economic diversity. Students will also learn about the economic decisions entrepreneurs make to earn income through their operation. Students will also explore different types of products that can be made with lavender.
Interest Approach: What Crop Are We Growing?
- Ball (8" or larger plastic ball or an inflatable beach ball)
- What Crop Are We Growing? cards 1 set per class
- Tickets for guesses, three per student
Activity 1: Marketing Lavender Products
- Bunches of lavender, lavender buds, or lavender oil
- Poster board
- Dry Erase board, Smart board, or paper to make T-charts
- Writing supplies (markers, crayons, pens, pencils etc.)
- Access to computers
- Screen / projector
Activity 2: Soy wax Lip Balm with Lavender (kit available from agclassroomstore.com)
- Soy wax flakes
- Shea butter
- Coconut oil
- Lavender oil
- Small glass jar
- Saucepan and heating element
- Stir stick
- Peel-and-stick labels
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- advertising – producing advertisements meant to encourage the sale of a good
- carrier oil – a liquid, food-grade oil
- distribution – making a product available for purchase by dispersing it through the market. It involves transportation, packaging, and delivery. Distribution is fundamental to a company’s sales.
- diversity – a range of different things, having a variety, assortment, or mixture of different characteristics
- economy – way to make a living; how people produce, sell, and buy whole goods and services
- entrepreneur – a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
- essential oil – a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted. It is a highly volatile substance isolated by a physical process from an odoriferous plant of a single botanical species.
- marketing – the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.
- perennial – a plant that lives year after year and does not need replanting each season.
- specialty crops – fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture)
- steam distillation – a separation process which consists in distilling water together with other volatile and non-volatile components. The steam from the boiling water carries the vapor of the volatiles to a condenser, where both are cooled and return to the liquid or solid state; while the non-volatile residues remain behind in the boiling container.
Background – Agricultural Connections
Lavender is and herb, a perennial, and flourishes best in dry, well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils in full sun. The Loess Hills of Iowa are perfect for lavender which requires well drained soil. The Loess Hills provides a gentle slope that helps water run off slowly. All types of lavender need good air circulation and little or no fertilizer.
The Loess Hills of Iowa is a geologic formation spanning most of the western edge of the state. Loess (pronounced "luss") is a German word meaning "loose" and it is the name of a type of soil. Loess is a deposit of fine, yellowish-gray, clay-like sediment which can be found from north central Europe to eastern China and in the American Midwest. Loess deposits are especially common at the edges of large river basins and are generally thought to be made up of material carried by winds.
If you follow the Loess Hills Trail in Western Iowa you will see lots of corn and soybean, typical Iowa crop. However due to the easily drainable soil, you will also find lavender patches. Lavender is considered a specialty crop in Iowa.
Interest Approach – Engagement
Ask students “How do farmers create income?” ”Do all farmers grow the same crops?” Explain that farmers make decisions each year based on what type of soil they have, how much and what kind of seed to buy, how long their growing season is, what type of equipment they have access to as well as many other inputs.
By growing something different or unique, farmers can diversify their revenue. While their primary crop might still be corn, an acre dedicated to a specialty crop can bring in supplemental income for their farm business. What crops can be grown in Iowa? What kind of crop might you grow?
- Students will receive three “guess tickets” to try to figure out what type of specialty crop they will be learning about. Make sure to let the students know, when they are out of tickets, they are out of guesses. Just like farmers only get so many chances due to location, weather, growing season, and limited resources.
- Write, or securely tape, the numbers 1-6 on your ball.
- Now, toss the ball to a student who is paying attention. Ask the student who caught the ball to tell the class what number is closest to their right thumb. Now read the corresponding clue from the “What Crop Are We Growing” cards.
- Ask if anyone would like to use a “guess ticket” and name the crop.
- Collect any student’s “guess tickets” who suggested a crop. If no one guessed lavender, have the student toss the ball to another student.
- Keep taking turns tossing, guessing, and collecting “guess tickets” until the correct answer is uncovered….Lavender!
- Explain that farmers are entrepreneurs. They have to learn a lot about their business and the crop that they are growing to be successful. Explain that farmers make the best decisions possible based on as much information as they are willing to collect.
- Have students think about the activity. What happened if you guessed right away? Were you willing to lose your “guess tickets” What if you only had one chance, one ticket to guess? Would you wait until you had more information? Explain that collecting information will help you be successful in business.
- Ask students to think about what type of things farmers need to consider before growing a crop. Talk with students about what would happen if the crop didn’t grow? What could be some consequences for not getting a harvest? What could happen to their business if farmers were all bad “guessers”?
Activity/Day 1: Marketing Lavender Products
- Tell the class that today they get to be entrepreneurs by marketing the specialty crop of lavender! Specialty crops like lavender add diversity to a farm operation and diversity can help ensure the success of their farm operation. Ask students for a definition of the word entrepreneur and to share some examples. Once it is apparent the class understands what it means to be an entrepreneur, ask the students to think to themselves, “have they ever wanted to create and sell a product?”
- Pass out examples of lavender. Bunches (if available) or cotton swabs dipped in lavender oil. Have the students carefully sniff the examples. (Lavender oil can be very strong). Tell students that the oil in lavender is produced by steam distillation and watch the short video clip, How Steam Distillation Works.
- Break the students into four working groups.
- Group 1 will be charged with starting and opening up a bakery that specializes in cookies – one of the cookie flavors will be lavender. See examples here, here, or here.
- Group 2 will be charged with starting and opening up a bakery that sells specialty cakes – one of the cake flavors will be lavender. See examples here, here, and here.
- Group 3 will be charged with starting and opening up an ice cream shop that sells specialty ice creams – one of the flavors will be lavender. See examples here, here, and here.
- Group 4 will be charged with creating a line of specialty honey products – one of the honey flavors will be lavender. See examples here, here, and here.
- As a group, spend some time discussing marketing and what might do to market and sell their lavender products. Guide them through key thinking questions like:
- Who will buy their lavender product? (It is a narrow, key demographic.)
- How will they introduce people to lavender who aren’t already familiar with it?
- What will their packaging or logos look like to be attractive?
- Have each group develop a specific plan for their product and business. Each group will be expected to present their plan to the rest of the class. They could create a poster board presentation, a PowerPoint presentation, or use some other visual aids to present their business and products to the class. Instruct students that their group should be prepared to present their lavender business and products to the rest of the class on the following day.
- Remind students that today their group will be presenting their lavender product and business. Ask for a group to volunteer to come to the front of the room to make their presentation. Be prepared to accommodate students if they need a screen/projector for their PowerPoint or tape or a stand for their poster board.
- After each group presents, quiz the rest of the class with the original questions.
- Who is their target audience? Who will buy their product?
- How will they introduce people to lavender who aren’t already familiar with it?
- What does their packaging and logos look like? Are they attractive?
- What advertising campaigns or slogans did they use?
- Explain that each of the businesses focused on a lavender food product. But lavender can be used for a lot of other products too and is commonly used for things like lotions and lip balms. Explain that today the students are going to get to make their own lavender lip balm.
- Pop quiz! The base of the lip balm is going to be made with a product that we grow a lot of here in Iowa and the Midwest. Can you guess what it is?....SOYBEANS! This lip balm will use soy wax which is processed from soybean oil. Soybeans can be pressed to extract the oil. The oil is then processed into a lot of different products including things like wax.
- In this activity, students will get the chance to make, their own soy wax lavender lip balm. NOTE: This is best done by the teacher as a demonstration with one or two students volunteering to help. While the teacher and volunteers are preparing the mixture, the rest of the class can be designing and creating their lavender lip balm labels. Remind them to think of the marketing activity from the previous day. The labels should be attractive, possibly have a catchy slogan, and target a specific audience. Pass out two labels to each student and any pens, markers or other design supplies needed.
Instructions for lip balm:
- Create a double boiler by adding 1 inch of water to the bottom of a saucepan. Place your glass jar with soy wax, coconut oil, and shea butter in the pan. (If completing this step in a classroom with no burner available, you can substitute a small crock pot, making sure to stir regularly as the ingredients melt. Time will vary by crock pot and setting.)
- 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons of soy wax flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon shea butter
- 1+ drops of lavender essential oil
- NOTE: This recipe makes enough for one or two lip balm containers. Multiply the amounts by the number of students in class to achieve a full batch.
- Let everything melt over medium-low heat if using double boiler. Adjust settings as necessary if using a crock pot.
- Stir the ingredients to combine.
- Remove from heat.
- Optional: Add small amounts (a couple of drops) of red and blue food coloring until desired lavender hue is achieved.
- Add lavender essential oil one drop at a time. Stir.
- Use disposable pipette to transfer the lip balm into containers. NOTE: Students could come up one at a time and fill their own lip balm containers and take it back to their desk being careful not to spill the liquid.
- Wait for the lip balm to set. Place the lip balm tube, or small jar, with the cap off, some place where it won't be disturbed. Let it set and harden. This should take less than an hour. Depending on the size of your container, it may even take 10 to 15 minutes. If you are in a hurry, however, you can pop the jar into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.
- Let cool completely before capping. – VERY important - do not twist tubes before lip balm is COMPLETLEY cool.
- Wipe off outside of lip balm tube carefully and place the label on the tube.
- Students can try the lip balm themselves or give it as a gift to someone else.
Wrap-up by asking students to jot down three things they learned about lavender on a piece of paper. Have students had the paper to the teacher upon completion as this will be their 'exit ticket'.
Did you know? (Ag facts)
- Lavender is a plant that needs to be pollinated
- Lavender oil can be added to soaps, shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, potpourri, and even hand sanitizer as a fragrance.
- In foods and beverages, lavender can be used as a flavor component.
- Candied lavender blossoms are essential items for cake decorations.
- Ancient Egyptians used lavender to mummify their dead.
- Lavender can have white, yellow, or even pink flowers.
- Loess Hills was named for the loose and gritty soil. The word “loess” means loose in German.
- Now that students understand some of the basics of marketing, encourage them to carry that learning further with the Gobble Up! Turkey Marketing Competition or the High Steaks! Beef Marketing Competition.
- Have students research lavender products and create a list of all edible and non-edible products they discover. Lavender T-Chart
- Have students conduct a cost analysis of producing the lip balm. How much do the ingredients cost (Shea butter, coconut butter, lavender essence, containers, etc.)? How much would you have to sell each tub of lip balm to break even with costs?
Suggested Companion Resources
- This project was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM200100XXXXG044. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.
- Melanie Bruck
- Will Fett
- Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom
- Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
Agriculture Literacy Outcomes
- T1.6-8.e. Discuss the comparative environmental pros and cons of populations relying on their local and regional resources versus tapping into a global marketplace
- T3.6-8.i. Identify sources of agricultural products that provide food, fuel, clothing, shelter, medical, and other non-food products for their community, state, and/or nation
- T3.6-8.j. Identify the careers in food production, processing, and nutrition that are essential for a healthy food supply
- T5.6-8.a. Consider the economic value of agriculture in America
- T5.6-8.g. Identify agricultural products that are exported and imported
Iowa Core Standards
- Social Studies
- SS.7.19. Explain how external benefits, costs, supply and demand, and competition influence market prices, wages, and outcomes.
- SS.8.15. Evaluate how economic decisions affect the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and society.
- SS.8.16. Analyze the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in institutions throughout early American history in a market economy.