Young poets bring joy to their community at Carroll Park

July 6, 2023
Two Rain Poetry buckets sit on the poetry-filled concrete at Carroll Park, moments before spilling their water and revealing hidden haiku.

By Maia Schwallie

Rain is usually the last thing you want when spending the day at the park, but if you’re heading to Carroll Park, the site of the latest Rain Poetry installation, a little rain brings a welcome surprise. 

On Saturday June 10, members of the West Philadelphia community gathered for the unveiling of ten haiku written by third and fourth grade students from Samuel Powel Elementary School. These poems are now bringing park goers outside no matter what the weather. The poems were installed on the ground using special, water-activated paint. Only visible when wet, the poems appear like magic when drops start to fall.

“I think the project is about… promoting people to get out to a park when it’s raining,” Anshika Lal of Tiny WPA said. “You don’t normally have that incentive to go outside when it’s dreary out, but now you get a little surprise on the cement.”

The selected poems were created at a haiku workshop with Samuel Powel students, led by Philadelphia based poet Enoch the Poet and in collaboration with Youth Poets Laureate. Tiny WPA, a non-profit organization specializing in designing, building, and innovating in community spaces, installed the poems on the cement in Carroll Park. Half of the poems are displayed 24/7 on colorful decals, while the rest were installed using custom stencils and some of that magic paint. 

Octavia McBride, known to her third grade students at Samuel Powel as Teacher McBride, said that teaching her students poetry was not as challenging as one might think. 

A haiku by Autumn M., one of the ten poems installed on the concrete at Carroll Park.

“Believe it or not, kids at that level are so open to language,” McBride said. “So they’re very receptive to the poetic style… and they especially love exploring it and then writing their own poems… Now, at the end of the year, my students are calling themselves poets, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Malaia, a student of McBride and one of the poets featured at Carroll Park, said she would like to continue writing poetry as she grows up. 

“My poem is about life and how you grow,” Malaia said.  

This event was not only a special moment for the educators and poets involved, but it was also a moving experience for the friends and families of the Samuel Powel students. 

Mother of young poet Zeena shared, “It brought me to tears when she was saying her poem…I didn’t realize [this would be] a really memorable event. I am very proud of her.”

The Rain Poetry project is made possible with the generous support of the William Penn Foundation.

Malaia, a Samuel Powel student and poet, shares her haiku with her community.
Three children decorate the concrete at Carroll Park with chalk.

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