Seeds of change: Growing garden education at Skyview Elementary

Principal Ingrid Dodd, Curtis Scoggins and Sarah Greenman. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
Principal Ingrid Dodd, Curtis Scoggins and Sarah Greenman. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Could a garden provide common ground for the diverse students 
at Skyview Elementary?

In addition to curious minds, Skyview Elementary will begin cultivating herbs and vegetables this month. The Harmony Garden, located on a 50-by-70-foot plot of land just outside the gym, was the brainchild of PTA president Sarah Greenman. She first conceived of the idea in 2013, when teachers seemed cautiously excited.

“They haven’t had anyone do anything extra for the school ever,” she explains. “There was a lot of ‘I won’t believe it until I see it.’”

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Richardson ISD wouldn’t fund the project, so Greenman began writing grants and visiting with neighbors. She has raised $12,000 so far, a third of which came from the Lake Highlands Exchange Club. Surrounding homeowner associations also pitched in, as did Moss Haven Elementary. Greenman even secured a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation.

“This drawing,” she says, referring to a sketch created by Harmony Garden’s landscape architect Curtis Scoggins. “This is the first thing people say ‘yes’ to when I ask for money.”

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Scoggins’ illustration, executed by hand, is intricately impressive. There’s a plant bed for each grade level, plus a butterfly habitat, rain collection system and compost area. He’s also designated space for “all weather instruments,” like those at the Perot Museum, so kids can create sounds inspired by the outdoors.

Scoggins’ wife, Karen, is a teacher at Skyview.
“He had connections to the school,” Karen laughs, explaining how her husband learned about the job, which he’s doing pro bono.
Though Skyview must raise an additional $10,000 for the plan to be fully actualized, the groundbreaking event will take place April 16.

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“We’re starting with herbs and lettuce, easy growers, so kids get the feel of success,” Greenman says.
Nothing had been planted at the time of our photo shoot, but there was still plenty to see thanks to a group of Skyview art students who, with their teacher’s consent, had begun to paint a mural in the corner of the future garden. It was only February, but the excitement was already palpable. Several people stopped Greenman in the hall to ask for updates. “The kids are going to be blown away,” Principal Ingrid Dodd said, staring at the site. “They’ll be able to get their hands dirty.”

Greenman has big hopes for the project. She believes it could help unite Skyview’s culturally and socio-economically diverse student body.

“We speak 34 languages [at this school],” she says. “Where can we find common ground, a universal language? You can kneel on the ground with someone and you don’t have to speak the same language… And then there’s the idea of roots, that they can be tenuous. To have something you plant and it will be there tomorrow — that’s a big lesson.” Greenman pauses, smiles and adds: “Of course, the kids just want to have a good time.”

Skyview’s Harmony Garden is still in need of funds and volunteers. To see Scoggins’ drawing for yourself, visit skyviewgarden.blogspot.com.

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