By Sarah Connell

To revitalize a forgotten Arboretum in Auburn, students at Swanson Road Intermediate School collaborated with New York City based artist, Alice Mizrachi, to create a mural titled “Gaia,” the Greek goddess Mother Earth. Students unveiled the mural at a celebration on Saturday, May 19th. Mizrachi was able to design and execute her installation with students thanks to a grant awarded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

During the event on Saturday, over 200 families from the town of Auburn turned out to learn about the mysterious Arboretum, which was planted by a beloved Science teacher, James L. Courville, in the 1970’s. Courville’s untimely death during a 1979 scuba diving expedition resulted in the Arboretum’s eventual neglect. Courville’s family was in attendance for the celebration.

[Submitted photo]

Leading up to the celebration, Media Literacy classes examined photos of outdoor learning in an Arboretum at Swanson Road Intermediate School taken between 1971-1979. In addition, students analyzed newspaper articles published about the once thriving space to formulate conjectures as to why it fell into disrepair.

Students worked with Clark University’s Geography Department to discuss how increased human foot traffic impacts the existing ecosystem. As students set out to create a community walking tour of the Arboretum, they worked as stewards and conservationists to design an event that could activate an outdoor space in a manner that is respectful to the land.

Community partners who participated in the event included the Imperial Lion Dance Team, Creative Hub, Pow!Wow! Worcester, November Project, Hundred Acre Design, Worcester Tree Initiative, the Rotary Club of Greater Auburn, the Auburn Recycling Center, Department of Mass Agriculture, WPI, Mass Humanities, Purebs Maple, Say Cheese, and the Mass Audubon Society. To learn more about the next steps for the Arboretum, contact Sarah Connell from Auburn Public Schools at