This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
If you were a worm, where would you want to spend your holiday?
Go to the Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to find out.
At the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s 191st show, Lincoln High School’s exhibit – putting its own twist on the French Riviera theme – features an urban garden with different examples of composting. Fittingly, it is called “A Worm’s Holiday.”
This is the sixth year that Nora Melley, the horticulture teacher who organized the exhibit, has been at Lincoln High School. Her students compete in the Educational section of the show, and this is the third time in a row they have decided to focus on insects or other “creepy-crawlies.” Lincoln’s horticultural program has been exhibiting since 1978.
The front of their exhibit has flowers, small trees, and other features of an urban garden, including a table, barbecue, and compost garden. Behind a wall dividing the indoor from the outdoor, Lincoln’s students constructed a small kitchen displaying easy composting systems like a counter collection bin with a charcoal filter. Fixed to the wall next to the kitchen display, there is another unusual composting strategy showcasing the stars of the exhibit.
“We thought it would be really cool to bring in some live worms,” Melley said.
Senior Joshua Manning agreed. “It was a really fun activity. … I like Ms. Melley as our horticulture teacher.”
The vermiculture systems were made by two autistic support classes at Lincoln, under Melley’s guidance. Diane Sadler, the autistic support teacher, was among the teachers who brought 80 students from Lincoln to support their school and explore the show. Sadler said she was especially excited to see the student artwork incorporated into their exhibit.
Lincoln’s Academy of the Arts includes both horticulture and fine arts pathways. With life-size sculptures of human figures made from tape displayed among the plants in the urban garden, the exhibit reflects cooperation between the teachers and students in two pathways, as well as those in the autism support and deaf and hard of hearing programs.
Reflecting on the two tape sculptures in their garden and the many others that decorate their school’s hallways, Sadler remarked, “They’re incredible, these things.”
The sculpture worked on by Victoria Miller and her fellow fine arts students.
As if on cue, Star Stell, a senior in the fine arts pathway who worked on one of the displayed sculptures, passed by. Sadler called her over and Stell described how she and her classmates used each other as models around which to wrap the tape, sticky side up, in order to form the different body parts, which they put together to create the figures.
Victoria Miller, a junior in the fine arts pathway, worked on the same sculpture as Stell, along with a few other classmates.
“All of the people working on the sculpture were very artistic, so we decided we wanted to make a sculpture of somebody holding a painting,” Miller said.
Miller explained that Melley saw their piece, which is titled “Commission,” on display in Lincoln’s hallway along with another figure holding a watering can, titled “Clear and Fresh.” She asked to incorporate them into the school’s exhibit, which won a bronze medal this week. In the Educational category, they were competing with fellow Philadelphia public school W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, which won a gold medal, as well as with groups from local colleges like Temple and the University of Delaware.
“I find it very cool, honestly, because I love that our school is so involved with our community,” said Miller, “so that we can be involved in events like the Flower Show.”