On a recent Monday morning, some of the most intriguing smells could be found emitting from the Woodhaven High School classroom at the South Whidbey Community Center.
Ninth and tenth grade students displayed a series of aromatic products they made themselves for the Herbal Science Fair, including therapeutic sprays, medicinal salves, syrups, lotions, candles and lip balms using plants that provide fragrance as well as healing properties.
Teacher Jules LeDrew said students have been spending the semester learning about herbal medicine.
“I like to weave in basic chemistry, bio, and the idea is they’re getting this kind of fundamental health background with more of an integrated context of what health means to each individual human, depending on how we all interact with the world around us,” she said.
LeDrew is also the owner of Wild Standard Botanicals, a business which consists of educational outreach, an herbal clinic and natural products.
“This is quite possibly my favorite subject to teach, and the fact that I get to share it with teenagers is just the most fun,” she said of herbal science.
The class collectively agreed to hold a product fair to showcase the items they designed. Each student made three items with a cohesive theme.
This week, the classroom was filled with the chatter of students explaining their projects to various members of the community who visited.
“I think it’s really fantastic for our youth to get to continue feeling comfortable communicating to adults because at the very end of the day I care more about their self-advocacy,” LeDrew said, “and having these kinds of experiences where they’re in the driver’s seat and in leadership roles opening up the learning to our community.”
Ninth grader Liam Gilles decided on a theme of self-care. His products included a rosemary hydrosol spray for hair before bedtime that promotes healthy growth, a rose salve for dry skin and a jasmine frankincense spritzer for clothing. Gilles said he picked rose not only for its great scent, but also for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Tenth grader Sylvia Homme created a sugar scrub, body butter and a lip balm infused with the botanical ingredients of rose, calendula and yarrow.
“These are all kinds of things that I would use, honestly, and I have used and made before, so I thought it’d just be fun to kind of try and make like a little collection out of them,” she said.
Her classmate, tenth grader Alicia Jenkins, used beeswax as the common ingredient for all three of her products – a lemon balm lip balm, a salve for minor abrasions and a candle made with orange and bergamot, which she said makes it citrusy and cozy-smelling.
“I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” Jenkins said.
Some of the students’ products delved into the culinary delights. Ninth grader Liam Akhtar, who described his creations as “feel-good stuff,” brewed a tea of elderberry, chamomile and tulsi that’s good for flu and the common cold. Ninth grader Ian Askins invited visitors to try raspberry syrup on the cinnamon French toast he cooked. And tenth grader Corin Boyd poured a syrup made of lavender, ginger and lemon grass over vanilla ice cream.
After the fair, LeDrew said the majority of students decided to continue using their products, and have plans to gift them.