Blooming Again: Rain Garden to Rejuvenate with Native Plants and New Mural Thanks to One Dedicated Senior

Blooming Again: Rain Garden to Rejuvenate with Native Plants and New Mural Thanks to One Dedicated Senior

A hidden gem on the SCH campus has undergone a remarkable transformation thanks to the dedication of one student. Over the past eight months, senior Anabella Castellanos has spearheaded the refurbishment of the Springside Rain Garden, a unique environmental feature on Cherokee Street just outside the Middle School that combines art and sustainability. Designed by environmental artist and sculptor Stacy Levy in 2008, the Rain Garden had become overgrown and underutilized. Castellanos saw the potential for the space to be a vibrant hub for the school community and an important mitigator of rainwater runoff. What began as part of her Venture Accelerator project, Green Line Greenhouse, has turned into her senior project. She’ll be continuing her work in the garden throughout May, making way for native plants and creating an original mural. 

"I couldn't think of a better student to lead this project,” said Upper School Science teacher Lisa Queeno who has been working alongside Castellanos this past year. “Anabella is so driven. She accomplishes everything she sets her mind to. We're lucky to have her tackle the Rain Garden; it was overrun by invasive species and had become an eyesore. Now it will be a beautiful, functional, and ecologically conscious space (again)!" 

We asked Castellanos a few questions about her project. 

Tell us about the work that's been done since you began eight months ago.
The transformation that the garden went through from an overgrown oasis taken over by invasive plants to an active and lively place for all members of the SCH community to enjoy is so exciting. Before I tended to the garden, nobody could see the signed stones honoring Stacy Levy's work. After just a few weeks of weeding and chopping bushes down people began to say "Was that here before?" or "Those stones were under all of the plants?" I am extremely happy that I was able to uncover the beauty of the Springside Rain Garden for all to enjoy!    

What has it been like to work with the original designer?
Getting the opportunity to work with a professional environmental artist and sculptor has been a dream come true. Not only has Stacy Levy been an amazing mentor for the work on the Rain Garden, but she has also inspired me to keep pushing for the things I want to accomplish in life. Stacy is also one of the busiest and most hard-working people I have ever met. When I’m working out there and can't decide where to place things or what else the garden needs, I ask myself, "What would Stacy do if she were here?" I try to do that as much as possible because I am bringing her work back to life and when she comes back to see the final product I want her to be proud and feel that her work is being honored.     

Have you learned anything new about how rain gardens work?
This garden is one of the most unique environmental features at SCH! I have done so much research on school gardens and I have yet to see a single one with as complicated as a rainwater funneling system as we have in the Rain Garden. For those who aren't familiar with the back wall of the rain garden, there are blue pipes that start at the top and go to the bottom of the wall. The pipes were originally installed to collect rainwater and funnel through the pipes and onto the terrace for the plants. However, with the new Boat Room below the rain garden, the pipes had to be put into the ground to avoid leaking from the ceiling. Although the pipes do not function as designed, they still work efficiently. 

It’s May 2, what’s next?!
My goal is to finish the Rain Garden by the end of May and have an opening for the garden. We’ll be repainting the blue pipes, cleaning the inside of them, and planting new natives (65 total) including dwarf crested iris, New England aster, white woodland aster, shooting star, red milkweed, and purple coneflower as well as the shadbush. Ms Queeno and I are also painting a mural on the brick wall outside of Mr. Stein's room. 

What has been the most exciting part of this project?
This garden has truly brought me closer to everyone in the community. I was walking down the hallway one day and an art teacher in the Middle School stopped to ask me, "Are you the one who put seating outside in the garden? I love it out there!" That made my day knowing that I am impacting the greater community by making this space available to all faculty and students.  

Tell us how you recruited help in the garden.
Getting people to help outside in the garden was no hard task! Everyone wanted to go out there and be a part of the process. I took my forensic class out there, used some of Ms. Queeno's Biology students, got some helping hands from the Middle School Eco Club, and even had people in my CEL cohort (including Mr. Glassman, Mr. Kirker, and Ms. Knutson) help out as well. More than 50 people have helped bring the garden back to life. One thing I wanted when I began working on this project was to give the students a chance to put a little work into it. This way, the garden would be made for the community by the community.  

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