Well Done, Waterford High’s Innovators

WATERFORD High School may not be known for too many major non-academic achievements, but what the St Catherine institution is quickly becoming recognized for is its interesting array of natural products, made from scratch, by the eager hands of the enthusiastic students of the Science and Environmental Club.

The club’s flagship products are facial cleansing soap bars, which it makes in a variety of essences, including garlic and lemon-grass, orange, and aloe. The students and their teacher Tera Rankine all visibly light up as they speak of the success and the attention that the initiative has so far attracted.

Rankine explained that the club entered the soaps in the Catalyst’s Youth Innovation Competition held earlier this month, where they placed seventh, beating out even traditional high schools.

“We are right up there with the Ardenne and the Campion; we are in that top group. It shows the students that they can do it, it doesn’t matter which school they are from. That’s the impact I wanted to make, that’s why I came back to this school to teach,” the past student said.

The competition, which was created by Mint Management and Finance Services Limited, engages young innovators from third to sixth form to participate and develop an appetite for innovation. It instils in the students the business acumen to be future business leaders.

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Science club member Kemo Anderson explained that the soaps, which go under the company name Nature’s Drop, are different because of the emphasis on natural ingredients in their production and the absence of harsh preservatives and other chemicals.

“The thing with our soaps is that we don’t remove the glycerin like what they would normally do with other soaps, because the glycerin is good for the skin for moisture. So that helps to make our soaps more special than the others,” he stated.

Principal Cecile Bernard also gushed about the soaps, noting the hard work and dedication which went into pulling it all together for the competition.

“It all started with the (orange) peels. We ate extra oranges during that period, plus the vendors gave us peels, then we went and bought oranges specifically for this. We just experimented with it,” she recalled.

Another student of the club, Mackayla Lawrence, also attests to the focus it took to prepare to go up against 30 other schools.

“I got to like it a lot. Even on Saturdays we were over here from about 9:00 am. We made a lot of progress.”

The club also makes deliciously scented shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Shanique Gyles said she has been using the shampoo and conditioner with remarkable results.

Of the soaps, she said: “I had some dark spots on my face. They (doctors) gave me medication but it was not working. I started using the soap and started getting great results.”

Rankine, too, said the soaps have helped with her own skin issues.

“I used to wear a lot of make-up because I had a lot of spots on my face. I try to feed my skin with the organic soap and now I don’t have to wear make-up again,” she said. “The spots are fading away.”

Tiana Prendergast and Sasha Daley, who also touted the wonders of the bars, said they have both enjoyed and learnt from their experiments and experiences as members of the science club.

Nature’s Drop, which was recently registered, now has its work cut out in preparation for the renowned Denbigh Agricultural Industrial and Food Show in August. Rankine and her students want to have at least 3,000 soaps on display.

Despite their determination and passion the group has a challenge. They need more moulds and capital injection to meet the pressing demand for products from their own school population, as well as the retail outlets where the products are being marketed.

“We don’t have the amount of material (needed) for one mix, we can only produce 40 soaps for one mix and sometimes before we even leave the school we have sold 25,” Anderson explained.

“We want to get investors,” Rankine said, expressing appreciation for the support of the Jamaica Agricultural Society and the Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement which are already on board. She said even more publicity is expected from the upcoming annual Denbigh show, which puts the spotlight on not just innovation in agriculture, but also initiatives like the one being pursued at Waterford High.

The next stop before Denbigh is the UDC Hellshire Enviro Competition next month. The institution will be on familiar ground, having won top prize in 2013 for its outstanding hydroponics project.

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Rankine said she returned to Waterford High to teach, because she was determined to give back to her alma mater and to be an integral part of its development.

“So I started the Science and Environmental Club in 2012. We have become number one in Portmore. We compete with the top schools in Portmore and the rest of the island. The club is growing. We started off with 10 students and now our club has about 40 to 50 registered members, but about 30 are active, and still others want to join.”

Rankine said her method of teaching involves making activities fun, and taking science out of the classroom into the real world.

“I teach them, not just to be innovators, but also to make their own businesses,” she added

Jamaica Observer.com

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