Students at St. Michael the Archangel School in Levittown participated in their sixth annual Junior Flower Show Jan. 31, adding extra color to Catholic Schools Week, which ends Feb. 1.

The event celebrates a place where “science and creativity come together,” said Julia Thome of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), which supports flower shows at area schools to explore the benefits of horticulture through hands-on learning.

PHS provides guidelines, suggested projects and lesson plans so schools can run their own exhibit. Judges then review the exhibits and present award ribbons to participating students and collaboratively select a handful of “Best of Show” winners who receive tickets to the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show where their work will be displayed.

Teachers from St. Michael School incorporated Junior Flower Show projects into their classroom learning. Each class chose a project outlined by PHS, but students were encouraged to work on additional projects on their own. Principal Stephen DiCicco referred to the project as “educational” and “creative.”

Eighth graders honed research skills and expressed creativity with their bouquet floral arrangements. Students were asked to choose flowers that “resembled the vibrancy of Mediterranean colors,” said eighth-grade student Noel Cresbo.

Flowers were arranged in vases or recyclable material.

“Most vases that are typically used are glass, which is recyclable and easy to find,” said eighth grader Logan O’Keefe. “Some students chose other recyclable material like plastic and cardboard, which really gives variety and shows how much thought went into the project.”

Because of the amount of research required, the project was included in the school’s science and history curriculum, according to eighth-grade teacher Florence Viola, who has been teaching for 41 years.

Thome, along with volunteer judges from the West Trenton Garden Club, awarded ribbons and placed encouraging notes on each horticultural project that lined St. Michael’s school gymnasium. Two students were awarded “Best of Show” and will have their projects displayed at the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show.

“What we’re looking for here is really both the creativity and ideas of the students, as well as the care and attention that they gave to the plants … but we really just want to help support and encourage all these students to continue to do this in the future,” said Thome.

The Junior Flower Show has become a bright tradition at St. Michael School, with one fourth-grade student enthusiastically listing it among her favorite things about the school. And her schoolmates could enjoy the exhibit all day after it was set up for judging in the morning and remained on display for the evening open house.

Students were not shy about expressing their love of St. Michael the Archangel school and Catholic education. Multiple hands raised at once when the eighth grade class was asked why students should come to Catholic school.

“I think it’s a really good way to build good morals and good habits in terms of respect and kindness,” Cresbo said. “What you learn in Catholic school is to take your faith and to use that in the world around you.”

Student Tyler Scalley referenced the faculty as his favorite part of St. Michael School, saying, “They want to make sure all the students get the best education.”

Shirley Orlowski, mother of second grader Alicja and a school volunteer, said that after looking at five other schools, the family atmosphere at the Levittown parochial school made all the difference and was the right school for her family.

“It seems like everyone has known each other for years, and that’s why we chose it here,” she said.

St. Michael the Archangel is recognized in Bucks County as a school of excellence. In 2019 it was voted “Best Private School Bucks County” by Bucks Happening and voted “Best Catholic School” by Best of Bucks by the Bucks County Courier Times.

In addition, the school was selected as the best Catholic school in Levittown by the Levittown Business Association.

It has been nominated again this year for “Best Private School” by Bucks Happening. Vote for St. Michael the Archangel in the contest here. Voting ends on Feb. 17.

Students of St. Michael the Archangel School, Levittown, show their projects at the school’s Junior Flower Show exhibit Jan. 31. (Maria Pisano)