A Rose is Best

Student mastery and technology in floral design

GUEST COLUMN | by William J. McKinley

CREDIT William J McKinley.pngEducators, at every level, have changed the way they present information and knowledge to their students to keep pace with the technological expectations of future employers. Predictably, industries that are adapting include manufacturing and construction, but one industry that is adapting may come as a surprise – floral design.

Technology has enabled us, in new ways, to introduce students to the floral industry and prove to them that they not only know a skill, but have mastered specific subjects. In my position as the director of the Benz School of Floral Design at Texas A&M University, I work to integrate a variety of traditional classroom and hands-on instructional experiences with technology to bolster the students’ understanding of floral design.

Our online database and resources are further supplemented with virtual reality (VR) technology.

To share industry knowledge with aspiring floral designers, the Benz School offers two different avenues for students to master the art of floral design: students may enroll in classes at Texas A&M University during the academic year to gain a Bachelor’s of Art degree with an emphasis in floral design, or register for summer courses to earn certification in floral design. These classes utilize both in-person and online CTE courses. Whether through Texas A&M University or online, students are provided with in-depth knowledge of the history of the industry, an introduction to basic skills, an overview of the different design styles, and strategies for running a successful floral design business.

The school takes a unique approach to teaching floral design. Rather than basing mastery of design on a particular style or technique, our approach begins with understanding the theories of floral design: the rules that govern all design. Our concepts and instructional materials are based on the elements and principles of design which allow the students to develop their own styles and techniques within a solid educational foundation of art. This creates students with a better understanding of their work and makes them better professional when they enter the workforce.

When it comes to mastery of a skill or subject, there’s no denying that technology plays a prominent role in today’s classrooms. The use of social media to follow trends or the web for photography and video; communicating with suppliers or other designers through live streaming and 3D visualization are all opportunities for enhancing the educational experience of floral design students.

With a strong online presence for curriculum in the floral industry, our online learning platform provides teachers easy access to the myriad of online and hands-on lab resources available through the Benz program. From designing wedding bouquets to planning an event, the online database provides relevant and applicable materials to the students to enhance their skills.

Our online database and resources are further supplemented with virtual reality (VR) technology. This VR component allows students to see and manipulate a full version of design examples on a computer screen, adding a depth to designs that flat screens don’t show. Through VR, designs come to life, allowing students to explore floral design through a new medium, while engaging them through a new learning experience. The Benz VR components have the added benefit of teaching students how to use this and other technology in their future careers within the industry. VR technology demonstrates, in intricate detail, how designs are constructed, but also illustrate how designs can be marketed using a variety of electronic and virtual tools.

We take a holistic approach to teaching floral design, integrating technology in both the classroom setting and online to create an engaging educational experience for students of all learning levels. This approach inspires students to gain a mastery of skills as they learn the art and the business of the industry while helping them build a strong foundation of the principles and elements of design. Students emerge from this program with a sound understanding of the industry and the artistry involved, making them better professional florists and more valuable employees.

William McKinley is the Director and Endowed Chair of the Benz School of Floral Design at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. The Benz School curriculum is based on the solid foundations of classic elements and principles of floral design theory, which are highlighted through a collaborative effort with CEV Multimedia and their Principles of Floral Design certification program.

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