Classroom Happenings: Flower Power

The Steward School
Contest plants the seeds of inspired thinking
When she got word that the Shenandoah National Park Service was holding a Youth Wildflower Art Contest, Middle/Upper School Librarian Crystal Hamlin put the “petals” in motion. The contest, open to K-12 students in public and private schools in Virginia and Washington, D.C., asked youngsters to submit original artwork depicting wildflowers native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah Park. Ms. Hamlin knew the contest was a perfect fit for a multi-dimensional Middle School project and an opportunity for students to let their artistic expression bloom.  

She began by designing an online resource page where students could each choose a wildflower to research. Inspired, they got to work on their one-of-a-kind interpretations of wildflowers. 

“Acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, pencil … even fabric,” said Ms. Hamlin. “Students were limitless in their medium choices!” Thrilled with her students’ enthusiasm for the project, she shared the contest information with Lower/Middle School Visual Arts Teacher Abby Klein and Middle School Science Teacher Claire Bailey. Soon, the project began to blossom even further. 

Ms. Klein incorporated the contest into a printmaking project she already had planned for her eighth graders. After researching wildflowers native to Virginia, students fashioned linoleum-cut printing plates, which they used to make colorful prints. The completed works are a series of prints embellished with oil pastel, collage, and paint pens. 

Gordon Miller ’28 said the project “reminded me of the wildflowers that grow at my grandfather's farm.” It was the first time that Gordon had ever done linoleum printing. 

“When I saw my finished piece of art, I felt gratitude for the opportunity to have that experience,” he said. 

Ms. Bailey’s sixth-grade Bryan Innovation seminar class, under the guidance of Ms. Hamlin, used the library’s makerspace to create vivid wildflowers from paper, pencils, oil pastels, watercolors, paint pens, and cardboard. 

Watson Mundy ’30 used a pencil to make a cutleaf toothwort, an edible flower that is a member of the mustard family. Cutleaf toothwort has a spicy flavor similar to horseradish. 

“These flowers grow to about 8-16 inches tall and their petals grow in an x-shaped pattern,” said Watson. “I really enjoyed making this flower because I love art.” 

The 130 works submitted by students throughout Virginia were judged based on original design and artistic composition, and the contest winners were announced via YouTube.  

“Although our students didn’t win the contest, they all enjoyed digging into the fascinating world of wildflowers!” said Ms. Hamlin. “Combining the studies of art and botany is a great way for students to learn about the interconnectedness of our world.”


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