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Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011

Design students put their ideas to a holiday test

Special to The Olathe News

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There were no textbooks in sight Monday at the Mahaffie Heritage Center, but there were plenty of smiles and more than enough garland.

Fifteen female interior design students from Olathe South High School put their book learning to use as they spread a little holiday cheer by decorating Christmas trees at the historical Olathe site.

The center buzzed with enthusiastic teenagers, who clambered for sparkly ornaments and whisked satin ribbon out of cardboard boxes.

Several of the students surrounded a Kansas-themed tree, which featured an abundance of bright yellow sunflowers nestled amid bright lights and rustic ornaments.

“These are cool,” said Calista Gorrell, a junior, pointing out ornaments shaped like sheep, covered wagons and cowboy boots. “This tree is going to be the best one.”

Their interior design teacher, Jennifer Fales, surveyed the scene with a smile. She has implemented decorating field trips into her program for the past decade. This year, the Heritage Center was the second stop for her students. A few days earlier they had decorated Olathe Medical Center. They will also work their magic on Olathe City Hall and a dentist’s office.

“These girls work so well together and I can definitely see them gaining more confidence as designers,” Fales said. “These projects allow the girls to really be creative and put their skills to the test. The more hands on experience they get, the better.”

Most of her students said the project has taught them there is more to decorating a Christmas tree than just tossing garland on branches.

The girls learned intuitively how to space each ornament on the branches to make the decorations appear even and fuller. They also strung ribbon vertically and placed flowers and candy canes on top of the trees, rather than traditional angels or stars.

“This whole experience has been really awesome and I’ve learned a lot,” said Geena Brown, a junior. “I’m looking forward to decorating my Christmas tree at home, especially now that I have all these new ideas.”

Across the room, a few of her classmates applauded their completed work.

After fixing broken lights and hooking heavy ornaments, the red and green themed tree gleamed brightly, much to their satisfaction.

Nobody was more pleased, however, than Alexis Woodall, the special-events coordinator for Mahaffie.

“These students always do a really good job,” she said. “We’re getting ready for our big Christmas open house and holiday parties are starting to be booked for this place, so these girls are really a big help right now.”

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