Flowers aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about kids who are blind.
But flowers – lovely, sweet-smelling and versatile – play a surprisingly important role at Perkins School for the Blind. You’ll find flowers in classrooms, art studios and vocational programs. They inspire student’s creativity and give teens valuable employment skills. Flowers also teach critical science lessons and help youngsters explore the natural world in a safe setting.
Here are six surprising ways lilies, geraniums and other flowers help Perkins students learn essential skills and more confidently explore their world.
1. Flowers are social: “Hi, I have your delivery!” says Kristina, smiling brightly and holding out a vase bursting with purple, blue and white snowflake poms flowers. Kristina and other Perkins students assemble the arrangements in the school’s horticultural center and deliver them to customers around campus. Each delivery is an opportunity to meet new people and practice social skills. “We’ve found that the students really like going on deliveries,” says horticulture therapist Deborah Krause. “(They’re doing) something that makes people happy.
2. Flowers are artistic. When it comes to art, the only limit is a student’s imagination. In the horticulture center, students create greeting cards using imprints of flowers and other plants. Secondary Program student Laura presses a geranium leaf onto a rainbow inkpad and then transfers it to a white card, leaving behind a cheerful springtime image. In Rocky Tomascoff’s art class, students build tactile collages from a variety of natural materials like seashells, pinecones and fragrant dried flowers. “They enjoy being able to work with their hands to create something,” Tomascoff says.
3. Flowers are academic. How can you teach kids who are blind about acid rain? With a lab experiment involving flowers. In Kate Fraser’s science class, students pour a mildly acidic solution on one group of flowers, regular water on others, and then monitor what happens. In another class, students carefully disassemble a large lily blossom to understand a plant’s reproductive system. These kinds of lessons bring science close enough for students to touch. “There’s so many hands-on opportunities (to learn),” says Fraser.
4. Flowers are exploration. Kids who are blind don’t have the same opportunities as their sighted peers to explore the great outdoors – so Perkins brings flowers and other plants to them. For younger students, the horticulture center allows them to explore different flowers at their own pace. “When you put a smell in front of them, or a soft texture, and they see that it doesn’t hurt them and they can actually touch it and relate to it, that’s where they start (to develop confidence),” says horticulture therapist Marion Myhre.
5. Flowers are vocational. The student positions the turquois blossom just so, moving it slightly to the right. He’s building a flower bouquet highlighted by exotic poppy pods and millet plants at a five-week job-training course with Winston Flowers. Students learn about jobs in the floral industry, including flower arranging – where a delicate touch and attention to detail is as important as vision. “The goal was for the students to learn new skills,” says Bryan Reitz, an assistant manager at Winston. “The kids really seemed to be receptive to it.”
6. Flowers are life-changing. A bouquet of flowers can give hope to a child who is blind. During the month of May, you can purchase Winston Flowers’ spectacular Charity in Bloom floral arrangement, and 20% of the proceeds will support Perkins’ programs that prepare students for an independent, successful life. The Charity in Bloom bouquet is the perfect gift for any special occasion, including Mother’s Day (May 8), birthdays, graduations or anniversaries. Winston Flowers delivers nationwide. To order your Charity in Bloom bouquet, visit winstonflowers.com or call 1-800-457-4901 by May 31, 2016.