Beautify, Restore and Create Maddie English Students Spend Break Designing Rain Garden

For the school spring break last week, some students went to Florida, while others traveled to destinations inside the state.

However, one group of dedicated eighth graders from the Madeleine English School went to Wyllis Avenue – a dead-end street near their school that had been destroyed by National Grid during this year’s worker lockout.

Their mission – to beautify, restore and create a rain garden to prevent flooding.

Heidi Orellana Ramos and Cindy Nguyen put the finishing touches on their landscape design for what they hope will be a new rain garden at the end of Wyllis Avenue near their school, the Maddie English. They were two of 10 students that spend spring break at school designing the rain garden. They will continue their work every Tuesday afternoon, with the hope of improving the space at the end of the year – a space that was destroyed by National Grid this year during the lockout.

Artist Carolyn Lewenberg led the grant-funded project, assisted by science teacher Bruce Jaffe, so that 10 students from the Maddie could design a new park/rain garden for the end of Wyllis Avenue.

Each day during school break, students reported to the science room and examined maps and used design tools to draw out their preferences for the small park that runs between the road and the Northern Strand Community Trail.

Lewenberg and Principal Michael McLucas said the kids were very enthusiastic about the project all week, and their work will continue each Tuesday afternoon regarding the design.

“It is very exciting and the kids have really taken the lead on this during the break,” said Lewenberg on Friday morning.

“The end of Wyllis Ave always floods and always has puddles there when it rains,” said Philip Fonseca. “The rain garden is going to collect all the water and absorb it to be reused by the plants we want to put there.”

Added Lamiah Wyzard, “In the park, we’ll make it very pretty and it will be filled with stuff so when people walk by they can stop and check it out. Whether they are coming from Malden or going from Everett, it will be a welcome spot for them to stop….That area really got destroyed. We’re going to try our best to bring life back into that area.”

The first thing they did was take a trip to City Hall to look at the old maps of Wyllis Avenue and learn about what was there and what is around it.

Each of the students has come up with a design of their own, but many of the students have adopted some of the best ideas into their designs.

One of those ideas is a photo booth in front of a mural, or in front of living plants.

“I wanted the photo booth so people could take photos and share them on social media and with friends,” said Wyzard. “That will help people know about our rain garden.”

Most of the plans include the rain garden in the center with pathways leading through the area to the Community Trail. There are benches in most designs, and small sheds that contain tools and equipment. All of the designs also include paths that are accessible for those in wheelchairs, which was important to the kids. They all included a Little Free Library location in the space as well. (Little Free Libraries are bookshelves in public spaces that encourage people to take a book or leave a book at their leisure).

Heidi Orellana Ramos had the idea to include trash cans shaped like mushrooms, a red top on the mushroom would be for regular trash and the green top would be for recycling.

Matthew Fonseca had the idea of instituting a cloud bench for sitting in the space, a feature that would reinforce the rain cycle and how the rain garden works.

“I remember seeing a droplet bench and I thought since we were doing a rain garden, we should include a cloud since that’s where rain comes from,” he said.

Several students were also very excited about Philip Fonseca’s idea for a Lotus Flower mural on the side of the abutting building. The Lotus would symbolize the students creating something new and pretty that rises out of the muck and the mud – like a Lotus.

In all, the students will continue designing the space and hope to have it instituted by the end of the year.

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