The school garden concept isn’t new to Richardson ISD – Merriman Park’s Outdoor Learning Center and Moss Haven’s Farm have been going strong and winning awards for years. The new Skyview Harmony Garden is, however, revolutionary in many ways. Skyview uses outdoor musical instruments in a garden setting – instruments the kids can play and bang to get in on the act. Then there’s the fundamental notion that most of Skyview’s students have never planted anything – have never even helped mom & dad plant flowers in the front yard. A large percentage of Skyview’s students live in nearby apartment communities. Almost 90% qualify for free or discounted lunch.
But lessons from watching seeds grow are bigger than those pulled from a science textbook.
“Some of these kids have a different language in speaking about the garden,” said Skyview music teacher Austin Aeschenbacher at Saturday’s celebration. “They’ll say, ‘I’m going to make some tomatoes’ instead of ‘grow tomatoes.’ It’s obviously a new experience for them, something they’ve never done before, to learn that you don’t have to get food from Walmart. They ask me, ‘Can we make this? Can we make that?’ I tell them, ‘We can try, not every effort will be successful’, and that’s a lesson, too.
“Back in the day, farms brought people together, they built communities. They’re learning about collaboration in the garden, that we work together. That’s what they do in music and in gym. Let’s see what they do outside. The big lesson is – there are no wrong notes. It doesn’t matter if you are sixth grade or kindergarten, you are not going to hit a wrong note in the garden.”
Principal Ingrid Dodd beamed with pride as she gave tours.
“The design of the garden was intentional. It’s unique in that it’s ADA accessible, wheelchair accessible. The bed heights are a little bit taller so that all students can access it. It’s been nice to see some of our developmental students out there digging in the dirt.”
PTA President Sarah Greenman, who had the idea for the garden, was quick to give credit to the many volunteers and donors who made the project possible, beginning with a donation by the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands.
“We gave them $4,000 last April to get the ball rolling,” said Exchange Club member Greg Duval, “but they then went out and got a lot more money to make it happen. But we were on the front end, encouraging them, saying ‘you can do this.’ They have worked hard and had collaboration from Kim Aman at Moss Haven and a lot of other folks.”
“These projects are game-changers for the students,” agreed Aman. “[At Moss Haven] we’ve given 1500 pounds of food to Network of Community Ministries over two years. It’s amazing what can be done.”
Architect Curtis Scoggins, who volunteered to design plans for the garden, was there with his wife and daughter, both teachers at Skyview.
“It’s great to see the kids getting their hands dirty,” said Scoggins. “The kids are planting vegetables and seeing what that means. It’s the circle of sustainable life. You have to learn how to plant to get edible food to survive. That’s what past generations did. Who knows what will happen in the future, so we have to teach these skills.”
“Music is foundational, too,” continued Scoggins, “and together we’ve got butterflies, we’ve got nature – we’ve created the whole environment, the total package. Already we’ve had calls from other districts to come and see what we are doing. The school board was out here for Friday’s ribbon cutting, and they said this will be the model for other schools in the district. This is going to be beautiful.”
If you’d like to volunteer in Skyview’s Harmony Garden, or if you’d like to make a donation, you can learn more here or simply mail a check to the Skyview PTA, c/o PTA President Sarah Greenman, 9229 Meadowknoll, Dallas TX, 75243.