Students, parents hoping to revive Skyline School garden

Skyline School garden advocates Alex Powell and Miles Wakeham.
(Stacy Bostrum)

A group of Solana Beach families is working to bring the Skyline School garden back to life. With no one to run the program, the neglected garden has sadly become “dried-up empty boxes of sticks.”

At the Solana Beach School District’s Oct. 13 board meeting, students and parents came forward to request that the district help their garden grow. They strongly believe that the garden is a meaningful and fun hands-on educational program that all kids should be able to enjoy.

“With so much emphasis and addiction to technology at both home and school and the stressors of the world, the gardens offer a haven of connection, simplicity and the beauty of Mother Nature, all so healing. Simply put, gardens are hugely important for social-emotional health and learning,” said parent Stacy Bostrum. “Gardens are just as much for the soul as they are about science.”

The school garden at Skyline School.
(Stacy Bostrum)

Bostrom and fellow Skyline parents Ashlee Udall and Chris Wakeham have been leading the effort to get the garden program back up and flourishing. At the meeting, they encouraged the district to partner with the community and the education foundation to keep gardens thriving in schools, suggesting an allocation of possibly $10,000 a year per school to fund the gardens and pay for part-time garden teachers.

“The school garden programs build a connection between child and earth in a way that no other class can come close to,” Wakeham said.

Wakeham submitted 30 letters from Skyline students to the board, asking to bring back the school garden program that they “so dearly miss.” Wakeham said the students’ letters were informed and compassionate calls for the district’s help—students wrote that they enjoyed the feeling of growing and taking care of the earth, learning how food is grown sustainably, cooking with what they grew and trimming dead plants and giving new ones life.

“The school garden inspired me and my family to grow our own food, start a compost bin and buy organic,” said student Alex Powell, adding that the most fun part was watching plants you planted grow and thrive. “It has been really sad to see all the dead and dying plants in the garden beds every day.”

Miles Wakeham, a sixth grader at Skyline, also spoke to the board about how passionate he was about bringing back the garden.

“It teaches the importance of healthy foods and also we cook with the food grown in the gardens. As you know cooking is a valuable skill in later life,” Miles said. “The school garden is a great way to improve students’ health by teaching them how to eat well, also it will help prevent obesity.”

The district’s Call to Climate Change Action, Sustainability, and Environmental Stewardship passed in 2020, called for supporting school gardens as hands-on learning experiences that promote good nutrition and stewardship of the land. Miles said the school should use garden produce for school lunches and convert all of the trees to fruit-bearing trees.

The state of the planter boxes in the Skyline School garden.
(Stacy Bostum)

“Not every student is fortunate enough to have a garden at home,” Miles said. “The school garden is a great way to allow those students to experience the joy of it.”

This is not the first time students have come before the board to advocate for change, in past years student environmental clubs like Solana Ranch’s Enviro Hawks and the Skyline Eco Otters have sought to eliminate single-use plastic and waste on their campuses.

At the meeting, Solana Beach School Board Vice President Debra Schade said she was smiling ear to ear at the young public speakers and was thrilled they came to share their thoughts about school gardens and how much they mean to them. She requested a report on school gardens and funding options at the next board meeting.

“It filled my heart the way students were passionate about their school gardens,” Schade said. “I think this is a great opportunity for civic engagement and I’m really proud that our students are stepping up and engaging in board meetings.”