Blossoming into a new Bonita

BVH teachers team up to create a more sustainable campus


Eiffel Sunga

Junior Daniel Robitaille and Cherise Magtoto take a break during their International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems and Societies class to set up their mobile planter. Robitaille is planting a California Sage Bush.

While walking through the halls of Bonita Vista High, one might notice a disarray of various beautiful and blooming plants beginning and ending at the 400s hallways on campus. What sparked the idea to add this touch of green on campus came from two teachers, International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems and Societies (IB ESS) teacher Jennifer Ekstein and Advanced Placement Environmental Science (APES)  teacher Adrienne Marriott. 

Desiring a greener campus, Marriot and Ekstein were able to use a project based learning grant provided by the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) for resources and materials such as planter beds and pots.

“I don’t exactly know why but they [SUHSD] had an interest last year in encouraging project based learning, which is where students are figuring out [for themselves] rather than me saying ‘this is exactly what we are going to do…’ Planting a garden is fun but actually getting the garden is where it’s at,” Marriott said. 

With hopes of  creating more sustainability at BVH Ekstein and Marriott have additional plans to expand their gardens to different parts of the school. Ekstein’s planters will be owned by groups of students who will decide where to put them and take care of them.

Mobile planter beds containing a variety of plants located between the 300’s and 400’s building, in front of Advanced Placement Environmental Science (APES) teacher Adrienne Marriotts classroom. (Eiffel Sunga)

“These are going to actually travel to particular rooms, or to a particular place where they will give a little bit more ray of sunshine, where places are bare, where there’s not a lot of plants. If you look around our campus, there’s not a lot of green, so that’s what we hope to do,” Ekstein said.

Outside Marriott’s classroom, plants, specifically ornamental ones, are being grown. There are different types of salvia and vining geraniums which were incorporated for pollinators. Marriott mentions hummingbirds and bees are found near the planters, enjoying the garden. Additionally, just in time for colder weather, winter vegetables such as beets, Swiss chards and onions are being planted.

“Food gardening is fun. Sometimes you plant things you haven’t tried before. I know there are a number of things growing that students haven’t tried so we’ll have to do a little bit of cooking and trying new things,” Marriott said.

Outside of Ekstein’s classroom, the primary focus when planting are native species as she emphasizes that invasive species tend to take over native plants at increasingly fast speeds. For example, Milkweed is a native species to San Diego which Ekstein grows. She began adding native plants in her garden to preserve and protect their special place in San Diego. 

“Because we are in a biodiversity hotspot, most students don’t understand that the plants that [are] around that are native [and] not found anywhere else in the world. It’s very important for [students] to actually develop appreciation for these types of plants.” 

This experience has not only been for creating a cleaner and greener campus but for students to be more involved at BVH. Junior and APES student William Fowler finds that gardening gives students a reason to be involved.

“It’s very important for [students] to actually develop appreciation for these types of plants.”

— Junior and APES student William Fowler

“[Gardening] gives us something to do as a little break during the long block period instead of just sitting in class the entire time. We used to just go outside and throw a ball or something but that wasn’t very productive so now we’re able to plant things and actually contribute to the environment of our school,” Fowler said.

Marriott expresses how gardening can also be seen as a calming activity due to the repetition of watering daily during a break outside. Junior and IB ESS student Daniel Robitaille describes his experience in the class so far.

“I like how relaxing it is. It’s very therapeutic, it’s a stress reliever and it’s nice to see something grow that you’ve put effort into,” Robitaille said.

The journey of restoring student involvement and the new additions of flower beds along the hallways would not have been possible without the contributions of Marriott and Ekstein. They came together to create a clean environment for everyone to enjoy. Ekstein shares her plans for the future and what she hopes will come out of this ongoing effort. 

“For students, I hope they have a greater sense of awareness of why plants are very important. They learn how to plant, they learn how to maintain plants, they understand the importance of plants, [and] all the ecological services of plants. That can transcend into their home, where they can create green spaces and they can increase sustainability at home,” Ekstein said.