On November 21, 2020, sixth-grader Ethan Isaacs was tragically injured in a sailing accident and later passed at the hospital. Now, teachers, his family, and other community members are working hard to instate a lasting memory of Ethan on campus, by holding meetings, sketching out garden plans, working with computerized garden layout, discussing plant, rock, and mineral choices, and more.
Planning is currently underway for Ethan’s Rock and Mineral Garden, to be located between the science buildings and media center. Right now, a committee of devoted project members, including science teacher Marie Rosander, Ethan’s mother, father, and grandparents, is putting time and effort into the garden.
“He wanted to be a geologist, and he collected rocks. Every time we went somewhere, he came home with a pocket of rocks…It started in kindergarten when he would come home with rocks in his pockets,” Mindy and Greg Isaacs, Ethan’s parents, said. “It seemed like he was searching for treasure.”
“I knew he was a rock and mineral lover…so then we started brainstorming; how about making a rock and mineral garden?” said Marie Rosander, Earth and Space Science teacher and one of the people working hard to run the project. Rosander taught Ethan in sixth grade.
According to Rosander, Ethan was “truly a nature kid” and loved to explore. Whether it be climbing trees, swimming, or, as his parents said, collecting, he was always in the great outdoors. Rosander also witnessed his enthusiasm firsthand working with him for the elementary STEM fair when he was in fifth grade.
“He was one of the winners [of the fair…when he was my student] he started to talk to me one-on-one, even though he was at home… giving me ideas on what to do,” she said.
The conversation about the garden began last year, when Rosander and Middle School Assistant Principal Melissa Abela were speaking with Ethan’s family.
“We were talking about what we could do to honor Ethan and keep his memory alive,” Abela said. “The geology unit is towards the end of the school year, so unfortunately he was not able to enjoy that… this is kind of a way to honor him.”
There are many hopes for what the garden will include, and many intersecting goals for the space. Most importantly, the garden will keep Ethan’s memory alive and strong at Pine View.
“[In addition to an educational spot] it should be a green, nice, comforting area if you just want to choose to sit there with a book,” Rosander said.
The group is interested in including many varieties of rocks along with educational information, lush plants, and a walkway throughout the garden.
“I want it to be interactive; I don’t want it to just be where people stand on the fringe and look at it,” Abela said. “It’s going to be fluid, too.”
Rosander also said that Ethan’s grandfather has donated geodes and gemstones, which will be displayed in the garden as well. The garden will be located between the two science buildings and behind the media center, near the red gazebo.
The project may face some challenges because of the location and its proximity to utilities in that area, but Abela said that instead of thinking of the garden as being underground, she thinks it will be better to envision ideas like raised gardens and potted plants.
Working on the project has been bittersweet, but it has also helped with the healing process.
“I would say there are mixed emotions,” Mindy Isaacs said. “I did have this feeling of some permanence, that this is going to be on the campus for a long time. That helps with the healing process, of feeling like there’s something tangible to represent him.”
It’s hoped that the garden has a similar effect of healing on students of Pine View. Abela said that she thinks “it will be healing for a lot of people, especially [Ethan’s] grade level.”
So far in the process, the community has offered a lot of support for this garden, which Ethan’s family is thankful for.
“All of my middle schoolers are like my kids, I’m very invested in them,” Abela said with a tear in her eye. “When you lose a student, you never forget that.”
“It’s made me feel very happy that other people are willing to work on this and acknowledge who he was as a person,” Ethan’s brother and tenth-grader Tanner Isaacs said. “I think it definitely will help bring the school and community together… it’ll show that my brother still has a lasting impact on the community.”
If you would like to be a part of this project or have any physical items to donate (i.e., rocks, minerals) or services to provide, contact Rosander. Also, the group is holding a fundraiser and seeking donations to go towards the garden. If you’d like to donate, please click here.
“He was such a positive, outgoing, curious young man… he’s always had curious eyes, the little glint in his eye,” Rosander said. “We want him to be celebrated for the beautiful soul that he was.”