Transdisciplinary Jefferson Team Shows Its Flower Power

Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce students worked on the “Garden of Serenity” project.

Students’ creativity, talents and dedication bloomed at the perennially popular Philadelphia Flower Show.

A transdisciplinary team from Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce worked with some 40 students from the city’s agricultural-focused W.B. Saul High School on their award-winning walkthrough exhibit.

Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) students researched, designed and created signage and other visual components—including artistic pieces and a sensory cube—to make the public aware of how plants can reduce depression and anxiety, increase self-esteem and benefit patients with dementia.

Jefferson students researched, designed and created signage and other visual components.

The University team visited the high school multiple times to brainstorm, refine and help build the display “Garden of Serenity,” a nod to the show’s theme “Flower Power.” The Saul students also came to Jefferson to work on the project inspired by chakras and Zen philosophy.

“It opened their eyes to what college is all about,” said Saul horticulture teacher Lisa Blum. “We’re so grateful to this dedicated group.”

Along with a focus on mental well-being derived from interactions with plants and flowers, the project zeroed in on sustainable design, explained Radika Bhaskar, PhD, visiting assistant professor of engineering, who led the effort for Jefferson. The students used repurposed materials and sought to eliminate waste in the design of educational messaging.

Working with Saul horticulture teachers Blum and Garth Schuler, Dr. Bhaskar wanted to create a valuable experience among high school and University students, as well as encourage real-world collaboration across disciplines at Jefferson. Fashion merchandising and management, fashion design, graphic design communication, finance, industrial design and international business students participated in the project.

The project with Saul High School won multiple awards.

“I met so many new people who I can now call on for their different skills,” said fashion design sophomore Taylor Millette, noting she applied her design background and learned about harvesting bamboo in assembling the display. “Hearing everybody brainstorm was great because we all had completely different solutions.”

Finance junior Sahomy Rodriguez, who worked on budgeting and logistics, loved watching the concept come to life, thanks in large part to students’ diverse majors.

“We all brought something powerful to the project,” Rodriguez said. “It definitely has been a team-building experience. Thanks to Professor Bhaskar and the Saul teachers for bringing us together.”

Saul students Gabby McDaniel and Tia Hammond set up the final project.

After receiving funding from the Philadelphia University Honors Institute to support the project, the design process started last fall as part of the sustainability and systems thinking (DECSYS) honors class taught by Dr. Bhaskar. Since December, it evolved into a co-curricular activity with a few people from the class and others she selected from her research projects. Other Jefferson students involved in the final design include Aliah Campbell, Shelby Montes de Oca, Melasia Pinder, Desiree Smith and Rosario Tineo.

Everyone benefited through this unique experiential learning opportunity, which won a bronze medal and a special achievement award for creativity from the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, Dr. Bhaskar said. “Equally important, the experience gave students the chance to reflect on our connection with our natural environment.”

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event. It runs through March 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

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