Essential Ingredients

The Art & Science of How Things Are Made

In our Essential Ingredients classes, we study why matter matters. We breakdown things to their simplest elements. We consider the ingredients that go into the products we use every day. We bring the periodic table to life.


Our Pathway curriculum sets UMA apart from traditional school curriculum, and aims to provide a more relevant and approachable way for students to learn. The following learning objectives represent the outcomes we hope students take away from this curriculum.

  • Hands-on Science

    Creative science is touched and used. Hands-on creation of ingredients that are used in products, foods, textiles and tools inspires connections to health, home and the global community for conscientious use of the earth’s resources. Children learn elemental as well as cutting-edge science in gardens, kitchens, and labs.

  • Sustainability

    Developing sustainable products that meet the economic, ecological, social and aesthetic needs of today’s society without impairing the chances of development for future generations. Students explore how daily rituals have immediate and long-term impact, and learn the influence they have in their choices for personal care, food, clothing and activities. They learn how to create sustainable products for personal grooming and for care of home and the global community.

  • Understanding our Interactions

    By exploring the interactions and connections between ourselves, our environment and our materials, children discover the many points of impact they have within their lives. Students consider the connections between taking care of self, taking care of school, taking care of home and taking care of each other, and connect materials with their environment. By understanding the materials used in nutrition, global grooming, design etc. they can begin to substitute sustainable alternatives, and start to form a sustainable vision.

  • Global Vision

    By seeing ourselves and our earth as part of a larger cosmos composed of the same core elements, students explore the core quantum principles connecting self, globe and universe. Responsible application of the sciences of chemistry, biology, mathematics and physics demonstrate the possibility of quantum-leap innovations and new discoveries.


UMA strives to guide students in realizing their own values and formulating their own understanding of global interconnectedness. The following themes represent the values we hope students build on through engaging in this curriculum.

Soil: Students learn how agriculture and compost can provide starting materials for not only food, but for products, textiles and tools. They learn the functions of plants and how to separate a single plant into multiple Essential Ingredients with vastly different properties, and how it is possible to use a whole plant with no waste while creating their own products. They learn how different soils will produce different properties in the same plant and that soil can be depleted or replenished depending on the way it is managed.

Matter: Students discover the properties of matter with hands-on experimentation. They create Essential Ingredients from the plants grown in the garden and use prior discoveries of other scientists to convert matter into new products for themselves and for others. They discover that there are multiple pathways to the same end result with vast differences in environmental and human impacts.

Water: Students learn the role of water as fuel for all facets of the earth’s processes in creating Essential Ingredients. Students become managers of products and processes for successful regeneration of water for themselves and for future generations. They develop new products that minimize water use in creation, use and disposal.

Places: Students recognize the earth as a global and universal community, interconnected through water, matter and soil. They learn how their actions impact this community. They create responsible processes and products to support the concept that ‘matter matters’.

Ritual and Intention: The first step in formulating a new product is the ritual of pausing individually and collectively to consider the impacts of their actions. Students practice the act of gathering in large and small groups when exploring the elements in the setting of formulation chemistry to share thoughts, ideas, and specific plans for action. Students learn how to formulate products and at the same time learn the impacts of various alternative practices. They learn the value of intentionally choosing sustainable practices.

Unity: Students create an atmosphere of cooperation and sharing. Welcoming the ideas of others results in the delight of new discoveries for self. Students recognize that giving and sharing of knowledge speeds and deepens experience, and strengthens everyone.

Seasonality: Students learn how seasonality impacts the availability of Essential Ingredients and how to re-imagine their products with seasonally available ingredients. They recognize that the global community has seasons different than those they experience themselves and how that impacts the products, foods, tool and textiles needed for different parts of the world.

Gifting: Students understand and practice a culture of “gifting” to each other, their families and their communities from their thoughts and ideas in the labs to their creations and products in the labs.

Observation and Awareness: Creation of Essential Ingredients and experimentation with new sciences provide opportunities for multi-pronged investigations. Collaboration as well as individual discoveries encourages the curiosity that brings awareness to students and recognition of cause and effect. Creating new unique products is not only the result but also the platform for the next discovery with Essential Ingredients.

Beauty and Confidence: Demonstrating personal attention to health and knowledge of self-confidence brings beauty to all children. Inspiring beauty in others and in surroundings is a personal responsibility and delivers a message of both optimism and expectation to students about the world around them.

Interconnectedness: Students at UMA recognize how their personal choices impact and influence the local and global community. Participating in the process of product creation invites recognition of relationships between product design and global sustainability.

making lip balm essential ingredients

distilling essential ingredients

Students gathering plant ingredients