Montreal elementary students turn cancelled school project into charity work

​Martine Chen’s 5th-grade entrepreneur class project — an online soap business — inspired her to become a marketing mogul.

“I just loved it. I just feel like I want to be in a marketing team too when I grow up because it was so exciting!” said Chen, a student at Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s, an all-girls school located in Westmount, Que.

But when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit and school got cancelled, so did the project.

“I was a little bit sad but the upside of it is that we get to do something similar,” said Katherine Turcotte, another 5th grader at Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s.

Their teacher Casey Sherriffs built soap-making kits and delivered them to her students.

“I was surprised and I was really happy,” Chen told Global News.

The students made the soap at home and instead of selling it, they donated it to people in shelters and other community organizations such as the NDG Food Depot.

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“It smells amazing. It’s quite beautiful as well, so I think it’ a real sort of pick me up,” said Caitlin Hayward​ of the NDG Food Depot.

Students in other grades at the school with similar projects also pivoted.

Grades 1 and 2 opened up a Toy Swap Shop to encourage kids to buy less plastic toys.

When the shop couldn’t continue, they donated all the toys to the Mosaik Family Resource Centre in NDG.

Grades 3 and 4 were about to open a Vintage Second Life Clothing store, selling clothing as well as artisanal items that they had upcycled from clothing. Instead, they donated the clothes to The Open Door Shelter.

The work has not only given the students something to do while their school is shut down — it’s also given them important lessons such as generosity.

“I also wanted to donate a bunch of my toys for money so we could buy more supplies (to make soaps),” said 5th grader Sophia Elhami.

It’s also taught Elhami patience.

“I was really annoyed when I had to wait like eight hours to pop the soap out of the molds. So every hour I was like, ‘can I please pop the soap out of the molds, Mommy, please?’ But no, I had to wait a day. So that was kind of frustrating,” Elhami said.

Sherriffs couldn’t be happier with the results

“For me, to see them motivated and excited to do something that was helping people less fortunate, to kind of see outside the bubble they live in, makes me feel great pride,” Sherriffs said.

Now that the project is over, the girls say they will focus on finishing their homework and their school year.

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