Experiential learning work product at the Funky Florist

Visit the Funky Florist

This student-led floral shop connects the classroom to careers with experiential learning.

When Annaliese Henderson-Yost took over the agricultural science program in Hundred, West Virginia, she was the first female teacher in the program’s history. Then, seeking to increase CTE student engagement, she turned her passion for floral design into a unique experiential learning opportunity.

“I actually worked at a florist called Coombs in college,” said Henderson. “Then I took a class in college and got really interested in floral design. After that, it just kind of became my thing.”

The new floral design course filled an agriscience credit for the students at Hundred High School. Further, it offered another opportunity for an art credit for creatively minded students. Now in the third year of the program, Henderson has seen her enrollment numbers skyrocket. And her students grow just like the flowers in the greenhouse.

Simulated Workplace, an initiative created by the West Virginia Department of Education, enhances career & technical education (CTE) instructional delivery by engaging students and allowing them to take ownership of their learning experience. Through Simulated Workplace, educators can integrate business principles and practices directly into CTE programs while students engage in relevant curricula with certification opportunities.

An experiential learning program blooms

Following a Simulated Workplace model, Henderson turned her floral design class into a fully functioning floral shop. Students run the program they call the Funky Florist. They take orders, build arrangements, schedule meetings with clients, and coordinate on-site set-up. Like a traditional workplace, students clock in and out of shifts, report to student managers, and hold team meetings. Further, as Hundred is a rural town with no local florist, the program filled a much-needed void in the community.  Our student entrepreneurs started small — serving funerals, Valentine’s Day, and small arrangements — but they soon expanded into weddings and other large events.

Known for its “boho” style, the Funky Florist is recognized as a professional vendor by the West Virginia Wedding Professionals. And several local wedding venues note our shop as a preferred florist.

While she teaches the fundamentals of floral design in the classroom, Henderson believes her students gain the most knowledge by practicing techniques hands-on. She describes herself as an advocate for individual expression! So, after building a model arrangement for the students, Henderson encourages her students to find their own unique design styles and encompass their personal preferences in their arrangements.

To teach floral design principles, Henderson implemented the Benz School of Floral Design Principles of Floral Design Certification, hosted on the iCEV testing platform. This certification, validated by industry leaders, can help high school students gain real-world knowledge and skills in floral design. A proponent of industry standards and professionalism, Henderson uses the fact that Hundred’s student florists are professionally certified as a marketing tool.

“We’re proud to say our kids are using iCEV to get the Benz School of Floral Design Certification,” said Henderson. “It’s been something we’re telling our brides that’s really cool and helpful.”

Success blossoms.

The success of the Funky Florist caught the attention of the West Virginia Department of Education. And the Hundred FFA chapter was awarded a $25,000 grant to bolster its program. Using the funds, the program built a cabin to house the flower shop. Previously, the Funky Florist operated out of the program’s greenhouse, which offered limited space and functionality. With the cabin acquired, the greenhouse regained table space for new plants.

And the new Funky Florist shop made room for a three-door professional floral cooler. This expansion allowed the Funky Florist to grow its product offerings and business services. In addition to traditionally floral holidays, the Funky Florist offers year-round design and event services. For example, in the program’s first year, they sold 1,000 roses. In 2022, they ordered 4,000 roses to accommodate the increasing demand.

The program relied on word-of-mouth advertising in the early days of operation. Now, the Funky Florist is now active on Facebook, which has increased its organic search and social engagement.

The Funky Florist is also striving to build its digital media presence by creating a website. This site is currently being designed by a Hundred student. Additionally, Henderson is pursuing accreditation from the American Institute of Floral Designers to bolster the Funky Florist’s business credibility.

Not only is the passion for floral design and business savvy pertinent to current students, many of Henderson’s former students have reached out after graduation about career opportunities in the floral design industry.  “I’m definitely proud of my kids and what they’ve accomplished,” said Henderson. “I’ve got a really talented group of floral designers.”

Involvement in the Funky Florist has provided a unique educational experience for Hundred students. Not only can students engage in a creative course offering credit in multiple pathways, but they also enhance their employability skills by practicing project management, teamwork and financial management. The Funky Florist is operated by students! Because of this, they gain a firsthand look at the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to run a business and function in the professional world. Henderson’s unique educational model allows her students to connect CTE concepts to other course offerings, ingrain business principles and develop real-world skills.

Read Techniques to learn more about exciting experiential learning opportunities for CTE students.