Imagine opening your classroom to your students on the first day of school.
The students walk in and the room is empty. No furniture, no decorations, nothing. It’s tough to imagine that, isn’t it? Most of us spend a great deal of time arranging and decorating, labeling and organizing. Many years ago, I read about a teacher who made many preparations, but it was the students who built the furniture and created all the decorations. Along with gaining technical skills, the students had a sense of ownership in their classroom. Ideally, that is what we want in our classrooms.
We want to empower the students and have them really feel the classroom belongs to them. Although you don’t need to go so far as leaving the room empty on the first day, there are ways to help the students be a part of creating their physical environment and floral design could be one of them.
At the end of June, I had the opportunity to avail myself a few days of professional development in a stunning setting in Virginia. I was struck by all the amazing floral arrangements adorning the tables in the dining room and on tabletops throughout the facility. It gave the space a feeling of class and a “specialness”. I felt honored, appreciated, and relished learning in such an aesthetically pleasing place.
Visual Arts Curriculum: A Flower Design Lesson?
At the end of my 3 days, I waited for a friend to retrieve me and take me to the airport and while I waited, I chatted with the woman responsible for creating all those lovely floral arrangements. She told me she loved to go into schools to help children learn about floral arranging. That was a real “a-ha” moment for me. I never considered students learning floral arranging as part of a visual art curriculum. But, what a great way to teach elements of design, and have students create something that sets a mood in the classroom and beautifies the learning environment.
When I mentioned I live in San Diego, she suggested the children did not have to create with live flowers requiring water (a rather scarce commodity in my neck of the woods). Rather, they could use dried flowers, twigs, stones and other natural objects that do not require water. Brilliant!
The next challenge is, I know next to nothing about floral arranging. This woman had an answer for that too, National Garden Clubs. She informed me that members of these gardening organizations love to come to schools, and help children learn about gardening and floral design.
In fact, here are some excerpts from their “About Us” page on their website:
Overall, we promote the love of gardening, floral design, and civic and environmental responsibility and we help coordinate the interests and activities of state and local garden clubs in the U.S. and abroad.
We organize, support, arrange and deliver educational and school programs along with a variety of resources to support horticultural and environmental activities. Further, we sponsor many networking opportunities and special projects in which our members can participate in order to be of service and help our communities on a local, regional, national and international level.
So, as you go about carefully creating the physical environment in your room or school, think about ways you can involve your students in helping to create that space and consider the use of floral design to add a touch of class, beauty and “home-iness” in your school.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.