John Hay Elementary

John Hay

Friendship and Pathway Gardens

John Hay’s Friendship Garden

Students, parents, teachers, staff and community members came together to create the John Hay Friendship Garden in front of our school.

Statue of Kanji symbol for Friendship

The garden–which includes stone benches, a bronze sculpture and mosaic stars set in pavement–is dedicated to Siri Mayo, a John Hay student who died of cancer in April 2005. With this memorial, the Mayo family honors their daughter’s spirit and courage as well as celebrates the many friendships and strong community support they experienced during Siri’s illness.

During her final months, Siri created a sculpture of the Chinese character meaning “friendship.” She also chose to depict this character on a class project for the school auction. This character or “kanji” is featured in the bronze sculpture which is the focal point of the new garden.

In honor of Siri, students and teachers focused the following year on themes of friendship and community, writing poems and creating art. Each student also created a design for a star mosaic, and one design from each class was selected to be incorporated into the garden. Working together with their classmates and adult volunteers, students made the mosaics which you can see set into our sidewalk path. A permanent exhibit of student art and writing is also featured in the hallway outside our gym, documenting this “year of friendship.”

This garden brought us together, and through the hard work and collaboration of more than 120 adult volunteers and donors, all 460 students, John Hay teachers and staff, support from the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, and through several generous local businesses who made in-kind donations, we succeeded in making a special place which celebrates the strength of our community and our friendships.

John Hay Pathway Garden

Created in 2000-2001 as a memorial to four John Hay students who were killed in the crash of Alaska Airlines flight 261 on January 31, 2000, this garden was a collaborative effort of parents, teachers, students, community members and local businesses to create something lasting and beautiful in honor of the children who were lost in this tragedy.

The garden is located on the northeast corner of the playground and features raised beams with drought-tolerant plantings, a paved plaza inset with colorful recycled glass, a memorial stone for the students who died, two stone sculptures celebrating the lives of their younger siblings who also perished on the flight, a whimsical metal entry archway, several large stone benches and a stone birdbath. Raised planting beds were also installed as part of this project, as was the Inspiration Wheel and the “Memory Miles” running course which circulates around the playground.

The “Memory Miles” course is marked by stars painted on the pavement and stone pavers set into the grass that are engraved with poems and artwork by the children, based on the theme “The best thing about being a kid.” During recess students can run “Memory Miles” and get a card punched for each lap they complete. When their punchcard is full, they are eligible to receive a free book from Queen Anne Books.

The Inspiration Wheel, located just south of the main office windows, was inspired by a Tibetan Prayer Wheel. The wheel features an engraved stainless steel cylinder which contains “remembrance ribbons” which were distributed throughout the community for people to write messages on, and were hung on the playground fence in the months following the accident. The cylinder is suspended in a solid stone base and can be rotated by children playing at the school.

The bronze “Bookworm” sculpture adjacent to the Inspiration Wheel was installed as part of this project to honor Miles, the boy for whom the “Memory Miles” course is named, and was funded through a grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

While the main reason for creating the garden was to serve as a memorial, care was taken with the design to create a playful environment that would be enjoyed by future generations of children. The goal was to create a special place of tribute not only for remembering those friends who were lost, but a place to explore and learn with classmates, a place to celebrate the beauty of nature, and a place to watch our children play. During the years since its dedication, the Pathway Garden has become an important feature of the John Hay landscape. It is used by children at recess every day, and by classes for outdoor learning and celebrations. The garden is maintained by a dedicated group of parent volunteers who hold work parties several times each year.

While both of the gardens at John Hay were inspired by feelings of sorrow, the collective efforts involved in creating them brought many people together and aided in the healing process. Both garden projects have also left behind a legacy of beautiful improvements to our school environment which hopefully we all can appreciate and enjoy now and for many years to come.