From Summer Breeze to Peachy Klean, 8th-graders learn by doing

March 03, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Used to be it was enough to get 13-year-olds to use soap, let alone worry about where it came from.

But this week at Clarksville Middle School's second annual Soap Judging Contest, eighth-graders explained in scientific detail how they concocted unique varieties of soap, using everything from olive oil to cocoa butter to almond extract.

And if that wasn't enough, there were target-market surveys, point-of-sale displays and television commercials using motorcycle stunts and shower scenes. Laboratory research was done on the soap to determine the soap's pH balance, its density and, of course, its cleaning ability.

It had to be good, if the soap was to impress representatives of soap manufacturing giant Lever Brothers and members of the local business and academic community who were asked to judge the event.

"I think it taught us a lot about what the real world is about," said Laura Johnson, 13, of Clarksville. Laura's resume and cover letter was impressive enough to land her a job as manager of the Research and Development Division for the company that invented Summer Breeze.

"Sing in the shower with Summer Breeze and you'll be at ease," was the slogan written by the Advertising Division, headed by Lauren Gibbons, 14, of Highland.

Laura, Lauren and Synthesis Manager Anne-Marie Rosenberger, 13, of Clarksville stood with their company president, Ingrid Frank, 14, of Fulton, in front of a panel of adults, including two representatives of Lever Brothers, and sold their soap.

The girls were among more than 200 students involved at the school.

Presidents and division managers from 15 "companies," representing the entire eighth-grade class, gave their presentations in the Media Center of Clarksville Middle School Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the winners will be honored at a school assembly, along with companies receiving honorable mentions in categories ranging from "Best Beverly Hills 90210 Soap" for the romantic Sunset Kiss advertising theme, to "Best Nutritional Soap" for the oatmeal-laced Mistic Spring.

Summer Breeze soap didn't win a prize, but it did get honorable mention for the music-note shape of the soap, which its commercial touted as easier to grip than standard bar soaps.

As about-to-turn-14 company President Melissa Almquist of Clarksville learned, running a company is not as cushy as some )) might think.

"It's hard when you have 30-some kids in a company, and they're all shouting ideas at you," she said. "It was very stressful trying to get things done."

But Melissa, whose group of about 15 shared shouting space with another company, and her employees stuck it out.

They worked through snow days to get caught up, and by Tuesday were ready to sell.

Golden Touch soap won, wowing judges with an impressive product and presentation by Melissa and division managers Laura Mason of Fulton, and Lynn Court and Shawn O'Hargan, both of Clarksville.

"What they thought was most impressive was in the commercial, in the shower, where King Midas came in and touched the soap and turned it into Golden Touch soap," said Joe Fabian, an environmental scientist for Columbia-based HTS Risk Management.

Mr. Fabian, a liaison for a partnership between his company and the school, helped organize the competition and recruit judges.

"We did that commercial three times over," Melissa said. "We just wanted to make sure that there were absolutely no glitches, that we didn't ramble on about the soap."

She added that the effect wouldn't have been possible without "a really neat camera" that was provided by advertising department associate Jessica Shamoo, 13, of Columbia.

Another impressive video, which won honorable mention for best musical score in its television commercial for Mistic Spring soap, featured a helmeted, dirt-bike-riding division manager discovering the product deep in the woods.

"We finally fit the fountain of youth in a box," proclaims the company's sales slogan.

Even after completing a snow-delayed six-week project, the process of soap-making still seemed mysterious to both the students and most judges.

All of the soaps started with the same basic recipe: sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, and lard or some other fatty acid, such as vegetable oil.

After that, a whole host of moisturizers, colorings, scents and even germ-killers were added by the different groups.

The makers of Summer Breeze discovered through a marketing survey that their eighth-grade target market wanted a white soap. But the respondents also wanted a scent, and when the strawberry and vanilla scents were added, the mixture changed color.

"It turned green as we stirred it," President Ingrid told the judges. "It turned brown the next day."

As a safety precaution, students were prohibited from touching their soaps even before this discovery, and all soaps are to be thrown out when the competition end, explained Jim Mowder, the other eighth-grade science teacher at Clarksville Middle.

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