Educator Spotlight: Flowers for Nat Geo’s Birthday

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Danielle Harootian and Dawn Fornari, this week’s Educators of the Week, stoke their students’ creativity through hands-on projects that explore diverse themes. They teach floriculture—a discipline of horticulture sometimes called “flower farming”—at Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton, Massachusetts. 

From left to right: Danielle and Dawn in the greenhouse; Photo courtesy Danielle Harootian

Activity: Design Nat Geo’s Birthday Party

Grade Level: 9-12

Time Commitment: 2-3 weeks

Tell me a little bit about your school.
Our school is an agricultural high school with seven majors, including floriculture. So instead of taking electives like music or theater, students choose an agricultural career that they would focus on and develop skills in.

Can you give me a sense of the kind of projects your floriculture students work on?
We do a lot of work on the floral design side of the industry, but there’s also a business side. Students might work on planning the arrangements for, say, a wedding or a masquerade ball, and that means they have to do the math that goes with it.

We also recently participated in a floral show at the Springfield Museum. The students made dresses, masks, shoes, purses, and jewelry out of flowers. It was quite amazing to see what they came up with.

See examples of student work here.

You recently did a project with National Geographic as the theme! What was that like?
We wanted to come up with a new creative project, and we realized that National Geographic was celebrating its birthday. Since we do a lot of event planning in the floral industry, we had the students create arrangements for National Geographic’s imaginary birthday party.

We incorporated not only the design skills, but we made it an opportunity for students to practice their verbal literacy. First, they picked an article from National Geographic’s archives that they wanted to focus on. They completed a research project about their topic, designed a corresponding floral arrangement, gave a 10-minute speech, and wrote a reflection piece about the article.

They’re such creative kids. One group focused on galaxies, and it was really difficult for them to create a project using flowers about galaxies. So they made telescopes, satellites, and other fun things. It was very impressive. Another group picked an article about wildfires, another about National Geographic Explorer James Cameron, and the list goes on.

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How could teachers of any subject adapt the spirit of this lesson for their own classroom?
The spirit was that we allowed students to explore their own interests. We gave them the opportunity to be creative and use their problem-solving skills as well. Students have so much in them and if you give them their space, they’ll run with it.


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The Educator Spotlight series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.

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