Students at Lyons Elementary installed a remembrance garden of handmade ceramic wildflowers to commemorate the lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and the work of frontline workers.
Art teacher, Elena Danilescuruss, proposed the idea after seeing the remembrance garden based on the 2014 Tower of London’s Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red public art installation, which marked the 100-year anniversary and commemorated lives lost in World War I, according to parent volunteer, Claudia Paterno.
“(Danilescuruss) worked with each child to make (wildflowers) out of clay and paint a flower,” she said via email. “Instead of only making red poppies, she gave the artistic license to the children to paint any color and design they wished.”
The entire school came out to install one of the 240 flowers in the garden with the help of staff and parent volunteers.
“The purpose of (the garden) is to honor this time and work collectively as people did in the Tower of London,” Paterno said. “We also thought it would be like therapy with the kids … like art therapy, working with the clay and making this garden could be kind of a gift to give back in such a trying time.”
Birch Eyster, fifth grader, said he remembers coming into the school as a preschooler when the 2013 flood happened. The school created a mural in the building as a commemoration with photos.
As he leaves Lyones Elementary School this year, he is grateful to have the opportunity to also contribute to the wildflower garden and to memorialize this global pandemic, he said.
“It was really fun to come from just an idea of making a garden and now it’s like really coming together,” Eyster said. “It (the garden) will probably always make me remember COVID and being at the school, and how good of an experience it was.”
Amanda Gonzalez, also a fifth grader, said it has been nice seeing how the whole school has come together as a community for the creation of the garden, something that will help remind her of what she has learned throughout the pandemic.
“(I learned) a lot of patience and a lot of gratitude for all these people, like the first responders and our teachers … we realize how much hard work they do,” she said. “The garden will help me remember this year and remember those people who helped, and remember it in a really pretty way.”
The school-wide collaborative focused on lessons students learned over the past year and doing something symbolic for them to remember, School Principal Andrew Moore said.
“When they actually built the flowers they talked about it (the pandemic) and then in the classrooms in the morning, we would talk about the impact of COVID has had on their lives, what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown,” Moore said. “By planting ... this remembrance garden we hope to reinstill kids every time they pass by it with memories of growth.”
Danilescuruss said she hopes the experiences of the past year will not just be something that students and staff put behind them, but something they can bring with them as they move forward.
“Change was a big theme that continued to come up with kids and the ability to work with change, to roll with the punches … pivot,” he said. “We realized we are able to deal with whatever is in front of us.”
The garden was installed along Fourth Avenue, across from the Old Stone Church, one of Lyon’s oldest historical buildings. It also happens to be across from where Danilescuruss lives.
She said she will be keeping an eye on the garden all summer thinking about all that it entailed.
“We were so isolated with this COVID stuff, doing the garden was like becoming part of something. We are still a community, we are community creatures, we were created that way to be with people,” she said. “This brought together family and friends and the community, inspiring us to do something in a fun way for somebody else.”