Real-world connection: Local students launch business, learn important lessons

Planting seeds and problem solving were part of creating a business for students at the Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque.

The details of the business, Garnish Greens, were organized and decided by 12 students in their nine-week-long economics course.

Located at 1090 Alta Vista St., the Alternative Learning Center is designed to help students get back on track with their education by offering an alternative to the traditional high school setting. It provides project-based learning opportunities to at-risk students who struggled at their original high schools.

Garnish Greens grows and sells microgreens, which are young vegetable greens full of flavor and nutrients.

Dylan Galle, a senior at ALC, said he loves the class because he enjoys the real- life experience rather than a sit-down classroom environment.

“It’s fun, hands-on and interactive,” Galle said. “It keeps your mind here and focused because we have to be doing something, so it keeps us engaged and busy.”

To learn about the process of starting and operating a business, the students have taken field trips and listened to feedback from local business owners.

Like any business, the students had to start somewhere. So they decided on a name and made a logo.

“We created the sign and decided what we were going to grow like radishes and peas,” said Colton Bries, a junior at ALC. “We get to learn while having fun, so it doesn’t even feel like we’re working.”

The journey of Garnish Greens included collaboration and cooperation. Each student has a role in the business, whether that’s watering the soil, packaging the greens or counting money.

Tim Hitzler has been teaching at ALC for seven years and he has incorporated this business project into his economics class for about three years.

“Education needs to be authentic, and a lot of times it is detached from the real world,” Hitzler said. “I don’t tell them what to do. They problem solve on their own and discuss real options. I also think when they’re providing to the community that it means more.”

The students behind Garnish Greens sold their produce in person and via Facebook.

In class, the students have cooked items such as eggs and mini pizzas, garnished with the greens they harvested and chopped up. Teachers and fellow students can smell the food from down the halls, compelling them to stop in and grab a bite to eat.

From dirt to plate, the students oversee each step of growing and selling the microgreens. They are able to connect what they’re learning to their everyday lives.

In Galle’s life outside of school, he has helped with his father’s business. Now, because of the economics course, Galle has learned important lessons. He said he understands a business needs money to make money.

Bries said he has been eager to learn and be involved in the process of creating Garnish Greens.

“They always tell you to get a job you enjoy,” Bries said. “This class is a perfect example of that.”