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Greg Heiner, a junior majoring in criminal justice and the project manager for the exhibit's construction, stands in front of a poster-size photo taken along the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Pacific Crest Trail, a West Coast
counterpart to the Appalachian Trail, stretches 2,600 miles from the
Mexican to the Canadian border, spanning terrain that ranges from
deserts to snow-topped mountains, bare lava fields to thick evergreen
Hikers might spend half a year covering its length, but a group of
University of Delaware students is hard at work on a different kind of
challenge distilling the essence of the trail into a 23-by-33-foot
exhibit that visitors to the Philadelphia Flower Show can experience in
just a few minutes.
Our goal is to give everyone the sense of actually walking along the
Pacific Crest Trail, so with all the variety on the trail, there are a
lot of things for us to think about and try to include, said Greg
Heiner, a junior majoring in criminal justice
whos the project manager for the exhibits construction. Were
partnering this year with the Delaware Nature Society, and theyre
giving us help with the best way to spread the message of appreciating
The end result will be on display for the duration of the Flower
Show, March 5-13, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For more about
visiting the show, including hours and ticket information, see the website.
On a recent evening in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Worrilow Hall, Heiner and some two dozen other students were busy
sawing and painting plywood for the exhibits walls, mounting
poster-size photographs depicting scenic views of the trail and making
papier-m??ch?? boulders. Some walls were being covered with green
chalkboard paint to encourage exhibit visitors to leave a personal
message sharing their thoughts about the experience.
Student involved in the project represent a diverse assortment of
majors from nearly every one of UDs seven colleges. Some are working on
the exhibit as part of the Design Process Practicum class, taught by
Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, while others are members of the Design and Agriculture student organization.
Everyone is so engaged in creating this project and wanting it to be
a great experience for the people who will come to the Flower Show,
Bruck said. I see students who arent even taking the class for credit
theyre members of the club but they come to class just because
theyre so enthusiastic about it.
This will be the sixth consecutive year that an interdisciplinary
team of faculty and students is contributing an exhibit to the show,
which is the oldest and largest indoor flower show in the world. The
shows theme this year, inspired by the centennial of the National Park
Service, is Explore America.
At UD, students in Brucks class last year came up with the design
concept for the 2016 exhibit once the Flower Show announced its theme
encouraging exhibitors to draw inspiration from the nations parks.
Students chose the Pacific Crest Trail, a designated National Scenic
Trail, and made drawings and models of their proposed exhibit, which
will be UDs first walk-through entry in the Flower Show. Brucks
current class dived into the construction work as soon as spring
Because the exhibit must be partially disassembled, trucked to Center
City Philadelphia, and then reassembled inside the convention center,
the class got some expert help from a faculty member accustomed to that
kind of process. Stefanie Hansen, associate professor of theatre,
has been working with the students to help them construct the kinds of
modular, lightweight pieces that are used in set design.
This is a more interactive exhibit than the ones theyve done in the
past, Hansen said. Everything we do in theatre work is built like
this, in manageable pieces so it can be moved around and reassembled, so
I was able to help them with that process.
In fact, she said, she hopes more theatre minors get involved in
future Flower Show projects at UD because the skills involved are so
similar to those used in stage-set design.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Senior horticulture and design student Sarah Morales works in UD's greenhouse, where she is supervising the selection and care of plants that will be part of the exhibit.
As construction proceeds in Worrilow Hall, another key part of the
project is flourishing in the College of Agriculture and Natural
Resources nearby greenhouse. The exhibits plant manager, senior
horticulture and design major Sarah Morales, has been ordering and
caring for the succulents, moss, evergreens and other vegetation that
will complete the display.
This is a flower show, after all, so the plants are the most
important part of the exhibit and a major element in how the judges will
evaluate us, Bruck said. All the plants are sustainably grown, and we
want to be able to reuse them after the show closes, so theyre
representative of what youd find on the Pacific Crest Trail but theyre
not the exact plants that grow there. Were using ones that are native
to our area, so they can be planted here after the show.
Morales said she and the team of students working with her have
researched the plant life found on the trail and view it as a source of
inspiration for their choices. Theyve taken that inspiration and used
it to develop their own creative ideas for the exhibit.
Like others working on the exhibit, Morales said the project has been time-consuming but highly enjoyable and rewarding.
It's such a large event that ends up making an impact on a
significant amount of people, and being able to help create that impact
is incredible, Morales said of the Flower Show. Plus, I've made a lot
of great friends outside of the College [of Agriculture and Natural
Resources] that I wouldn't have met otherwise.
Just as the students come from a variety of colleges and majors,
faculty assistance with the project, primarily Bruck and Hansen, has
been interdisciplinary as well. Anthony Middlebrooks, associate
professor of leadership in the School of Public Policy and Administration, and Jon Cox, assistant professor of art and design, worked closely with Bruck on previous years Flower Show exhibits, although they were less involved in this years project.
Middlebrooks called the project an amazing opportunity for students
and one that is valuable every year in engaging his leadership
This years team will transport the exhibit to Philadelphia and set
it up to be ready for a special preview show for Pennsylvania
Horticultural Society members on Friday, March 4. Students will staff
the exhibit throughout the show and, after closing time each night, will
water and care for the plants.
When the show ends, the team will bring materials back to campus, and
Brucks class will continue to meet as students immediately begin
planning next years exhibit.
Long-term projects like this encourage and promote interdisciplinary
learning among faculty, students and the community, Cox said. We all
stand to benefit from the unique perspectives presented from the various
disciplines involved in this massive undertaking.