Parent volunteer brings Skyline School garden back to life

Skyline students in the school garden.
(Stacy Bostrom)

Once abandoned and dying, the garden at Skyline School is now thriving. For the last school year, parent volunteer Stacy Bostrom has been reviving, cultivating and lovingly tending the garden on the Solana Beach campus, alongside eager students.

“The gardens bring life to the school,” said Tyra Young, a Skyline fifth grader.

At the beginning of the school year, the beds and planter boxes were all dried up, just empty sticks and dead plants inside. Now the beds are flourishing and full.

The blooming Skyline School garden.
(Stacy Bostrom)

There is kale, chard, beets, onions, potatoes, mint, bok choy, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, artichokes, “sugar snap peas galore” and a whole bed of edible flowers. There are 16 trees planted in the shape of a crescent moon, bearing fruits like apples, oranges, lemon, lime, Asian pear, guava, fig, persimmon and pomegranate. Students planted 12 different kinds of tomatoes and a ton of pollinator plants to attract butterflies and bees: “The garden is magical and intertwined with beds of arugula next to butterfly plants,” Bostrom said.

The garden has three arbors, wind chimes all over, birdhouses, gnomes, bunny statues and painted rocks, a pathway lined with corn and sunflowers. Sixth graders even brought in their old fairy gardens to add to the magic of the place, “I love the fantasy in our garden now,” one student commented.

“I have poured so much of my heart into reviving the garden,” Bostrom said. “Gardens are the most interdisciplinary environment for learning, a cornerstone in environmental stewardship, fundamental in teaching and encouraging local, organic helpful nutrition. But for me these gardens provide a haven away from all that is challenging for our children in society…a haven away from intense pressure to achieve, to compete, away from unhealthy obsessions with technology, a beautiful re-connection to our earth and all that is good.”

Bostrom, along with a group of parents, brought the issue of the garden neglect to the Solana Beach School District board in the fall, armed with a petition signed by students. Since then she has worked extremely hard and rallied, making community partnerships along the way. An article in this newspaper helped spur on the awareness and interest: “It showed that it matters.”

Skyline garden club members at work.
(Stacy Bostrom)

Working with parent Ashlee Udall, Bostrom started a garden club at lunch where children helped build the garden up from scratch. The Skyline Dads’ Club helped get the garden prepped in the fall, Armstrong’s offered free seeds and discounts, the local Seaweeders offered assistance and a Girl Scout troop reached out to help. Bostrom solicited money from friends and the PTA pitched in funds too.

The children in the garden club have loved being a part of the process, growing an “insane” amount of produce and plants this year, getting their hands dirty and helping to really make it thrive. One student remarked recently that it was the most beautiful garden he’d ever seen in his life.

“I love how pretty the gardens are,” echoed fifth grader Estrella Oliveraz. “We need them at our schools. Without the gardens, it wouldn’t be a complete school.”

Bostrom also got her church, Solana Beach Presbyterian, involved—they donated bags of compost and sent 50 volunteers to work in the garden for the church’s Community Serve Day in March. That day, school board members Debra Schade and Dana King even came out to help.

Bostrom also started a garden club at Solana Vista, where about 60 kids are involved helping to revive that garden too.

Skyline Principal Harlan Klein working with students in the garden.
(Stacy Bostrom)

Sarah Devereaux, a parent of two children at Skyline, said it’s remarkable that the gardens at both school are now “bursting with vibrancy from plants to people.”

“What a gift for a student to get to plant a seed, watch it sprout, nurture its growth and finally savor it when it’s ready,” Devereaux said. “The children at both schools get to witness that the gardens require their attention and consistent nurturing and in return rewards their generous giving of time with blooms and berries and butterflies. What can be more magical for our kids than their hands in the soil being a student of nature?”

For Bostrom, building up the school gardens has nothing to do with her own children but for everyone, especially the kids who don’t have a yard at home or never have the chance to grow things and enjoy eating the fruits of their labor. “It’s ingrained in me for life to care about the greater good,” said Bostrom, who has a master’s degree in social work and mental health.”

Skyline student
Estrella Oliveraz enjoys the garden.
(Stacy Bostrom)

As happy and as wonderful this year has been, Bostrom realizes it is not sustainable. She can only do so much, she’s just one mom and it’s a lot of hard work and a big commitment.

Bostrom went back to the board at the April 20 meeting to urge the district to consider a paid garden teacher position, a reliable water source and funds to keep the gardens thriving. She requested a sustainable, comprehensive solution to support garden programs across the district, not dependent on volunteers that come and go or the principal piecing together funding from the PTA or unpredictable, random sources.

“It has been really meaningful to pour my heart into this year but I can’t do it again next year,” Bostrom said. “I hope this all isn’t in vain.”

Students, too, want to see the garden thrive after all the time they spent this year “restoring it to its former glory”. Sixth grader Tess Bartosiewicz said she and her friends will be moving on from Skyline and they are sad to leave as they won’t get to see the garden grow and evolve.

“With the help of many amazing and devoted people, the garden is now a beautiful and peaceful place where you can relax and enjoy a nice book on the bench or hand out with your friends. The garden also has a fairy garden and a teepee covered in vines where you can sit and imagine, ” Tess wrote. “My friends and I take every chance we can to help out in the garden to make it a better place for other kids and I can’t wait to come back sometime to see how it has grown.”

A Skyline student gets his hands dirty.
(Stacy Bostrom)