View from Skyline Elementary School

Skyline Elementary’s New Garden Is About More Than Just Plants

Skyline Elementary fifth grade teacher Elena Jinzo has realized her long-held dream of creating a school garden.
Skyline Elementary fifth grade teacher Elena Jinzo
Skyline Elementary fifth grade teacher Elena Jinzo has realized her long-held dream of creating a school garden.
“It’s been a dream for five, six, seven years,” said Jinzo at the garden’s opening on October 18, 2023. “It’s just a super happy feeling. This is actually the joy after a lot of hard work.”
The garden came to be thanks in part to Hands On Bay Area, which connected Jinzo with a group of 250 volunteers from Genentech, who helped lay the sod and flower beds for the school’s new garden during the summer of 2023. 
According to Climate Action Coordinator Karen Lally of Hands of Bay Area, plans for the garden had actually been in the works for many months before her organization got involved.
Miss Jinzo's plans for the Skyline Elementary garden
“I remember we came to do a scoping visit to see what we were working with,” said Lally, “and Miss Jinzo had a whole pamphlet—slide show of ideas for the garden, for the drawings, for the layout she wanted along with a whole list of very specific things she wanted to do out here.”  
Miss Jinzo’s vision for a garden at Skyline began in 2017. 
“When I very first came to Skyline, I asked if there was a gardening area, and they told me that there were some planting areas in the courtyard that needed some attention,” she said.
She took over one of the circular areas in the courtyard and started planting roses as a way to beautify the school and also as a form of therapy for some of her students.
Roses and thorns Roses and thorns Roses and thorns
“I think it was 2017, 2018— there were a lot of kids just really embracing social media but then going down some dark holes and being wrapped up in some unhappy things, and we were really worried about them,” Jinzo said.
In response, she and a fellow teacher started a Roses and Thorns club, where students could get together every day and share stories with one another about something good (roses) that had happened to them as well as something bad (thorns). 
“Every time we met, we sat together and talked about our feelings, and it really did help them.”
Afterwards, Jinzo taught the students how to garden and care for the roses they had planted. 
“So the roses became a symbol of that hope,” she said. “Every winter they were going to turn very dry, and we would have to prune them, and I taught them how to prune, and then every springtime they would come back and be beautiful. . .and help remind us all that we can go through hardship and still appreciate beauty and be brave even through the hard times.” 
Now that she has a full-size garden to work with, it’s easy to imagine how many more futures Miss Jinzo will be able to nurture alongside the flowers she and her students plant.