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East County Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 4 years ago

Haile Middle School opens furniture store, The Storm Cellar

Haile technology teacher Maureen Hudson teaches her students crafting and business.
by: Amanda Sebastiano Staff Writer

As Katie Love looks at an old wooden cabinet, she sees possibilities.

Love, a seventh-grader at Carlos E. Haile Middle School, is in the business of taking something old and giving it a fresh look and purpose.

"What if we made this cabinet into this?" Love said to her technology teacher, Maureen Hudson, while showing her a photo on Pinterest of string art. "We can use pins and string to make an outline of the state of Florida. We can even make a heart where Bradenton is. I love that idea."

Hudson is fostering creativity with a side of business savvy in her sixth- and seventh-period technology production classes. Since the beginning of the school year, students have taken donated furniture and household items and refurbished and repurposed them for sale in their small store, the Storm Cellar, which is located inside Hudson's classroom.

Principal Sharon Scarbrough hopes to find a space at the front of the school for students to sell their work.

The Storm Cellar's customers are mostly parents and faculty. 

Students are crafting centerpieces and other decorations for upcoming events at the school, such as Haile Has a Heart, which will be held Jan. 9.

So far, students have sold seven pieces and have cleaned, sanded, painted, cut and completed 25 decorations, shelves, dressers and other projects.

"We call it upcycling," Hudson said. "It's repurposing with a purpose."

Hudson finds inspiration at community yard sales.

"I'll make my husband slam on the breaks so I can grab something out of someone's trash," Hudson said with a laugh. "I hear my students are doing the same thing."

The children create advertisements for their pieces Hudson distributes them to her colleagues.

An inventory system was created to separate the items by colors, name and price.

"We're learning real world skills," Hudson said.

Students place orders for items such as knobs, baskets and paint, with Hudson, who later buys the supplies.

The group also works together to agree on a selling price. Revenue from sales and the $20 lab fee students paid at the beginning of the school year keep the project going.

"Typically we just charge twice what it cost us to fix up the piece," Hudson said. "We usually use about $4 worth of paint on one item, and we consider if students have to buy extra decorations to add to the pieces."

Teamwork and communication skills, valuable in their future life, are key in making their student-run operation work.

Hudson plans to launch a blog on which students can post their items available for sale.

Assistant Principal Michelle Savchuk gave the students a list of decorative signs she wants made for her family members for Christmas. 

"I love this idea," Scarbrough said. "And the kids love it."

Hudson, who has a background in interior design, thought of the idea over the summer for the student-operated store. She tries to think of new class projects each year to keep students engaged, she said.

"I'm big into inventing and trying new things, rather than everyone building the same bird house," Hudson said,

When she pitched the idea to her students in August, Hudson said they grumbled and let her know they weren't interested in business.

Once students saw the donated items in the back of the classroom, they changed their minds.

"This class shows you that everything has a purpose," Love said. "We have a lot of fun."

Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].

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