Students and scouts join forces to recreate Pacific Beach Middle School’s garden

Coco Scatena, Evan Souza, Lena Clapp, Ophie Chen and Joqtzan Hernandez shoveled top soil for planter bins.
Seventh graders Coco Scatena, Evan Souza and Lena Clapp; eighth grader Ophie Chen and seventh grader Joqtzan Hernandez shoveled top soil for planter bins at in the PB Middle School garden.
(Cyril A. Reinicke)

Ruth Stout (1884-1980), an American gardener and author, once wrote, “I love Spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.”

That is exactly what happened when over 55 students met at Pacific Beach Middle School in February to provide an early greeting to Spring 2023.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the campus’ garden club, along with school staff and community members, worked for five hours creating a new school garden on the south side of the campus adjacent to the new parking lot’s traffic circle.

Sixth grader Myah Sturdevant and seventh grader Amelia Riley prepping the storage area.
Sixth grader Myah Sturdevant and seventh grader Amelia Riley prepping the storage area (aka The Garden Hut) at PB Middle School’s Garden Workday.
(Cyril A. Reinicke)

For many years PB Middle School enjoyed a successful on-site garden program. But when the school closed due to the pandemic, the campus’ garden was left unattended. Then to complete the recent school modernization project, a large portion of the original garden was removed.

With all of these events, Pacific Beach Middle School was primed for a garden reboot.

Under the coordination of Garden Club staff adviser and school librarian Sally Kaufman, students assisted in shoveling the top soil/compost mixture, wheel barreling it to new metal planters and filling them to the brim. Other students prepped the storage area (The Garden Hut) for the club’s rakes, trowels and supplies or assisted with connecting irrigation lines.

Sophomores Huxley Smith and Maxwell Chen hook up irrigation lines inside the planter bins.
Sophomores Huxley Smith and Maxwell Chen, who took on the garden for his Eagle Scout project, hook up irrigation lines inside the planter bins.
(Cyril A. Reinicke)

The primary mover and shaker for the successful garden work party was high school sophomore and Scouts BSA member Maxwell Chen. The alumnus of Barnard-Mandarian and PB Middle School selected the garden’s restoration for his my Eagle Scout project.

“My middle school years were ones I couldn’t fully enjoy because of COVID,” Chen said. “I wanted to do a project that will bring joy to students now attending PB Middle School.”

Chen, a member of Scouts BSA Troop 506, spent the better part of a year planning the Eagle Scout project, consulting with school staff and vendors, and coordinating the various aspects of his project. Once funding, donations and supplies were secured his project moved forward.

“Receiving donations from troop members, planter bins donated by Kevin the Epic Gardner, steep discounts from Home Depot for irrigation materials and finally the generosity of FOPBSS (Friends of Pacific Beach Secondary Schools) providing the top soil/compost mixture allowed my project to commence,” Chen said. “Without these people this project would have taken longer. Thankfully my community is filled with extremely kind and generous people.”

On Jan. 28, Chen and his troop cleared and leveled the school’s new garden site and constructed and placed planter boxes. Irrigation trenching was completed by Feb. 5.

When students and scouts gathered on Feb. 17 the day was clear and cool. The top soil/compost mixture was delivered and shovels and wheel barrows were at the ready. Within hours, the job was done.

Reflecting back on the garden club work day Chen said, “I am deeply grateful to those who have helped me and I am so happy to give back to the community.”

Plans are for an Eagle Scout citation plaque to be placed in the garden to acknowledge the efforts of Chen and Troop 506 in the school garden reboot.

Sixth graders David Peña and Frida Gonzalez filling planter bins.
(Cyril A. Reinicke)

As for what comes next, that is tending all the new plants. Kaufman said the PBMS Garden Club resumed its gatherings on Feb. 23. She said what the club members plant will evolve organically. There will be a mix of vegetables, flowers and plants that attract “beneficials” — birds, bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

Kaufman makes it clear to those who speak with her that she has a deep affection for and commitment to the PBMS garden. She expressed appreciation for the several Eagle Scout projects in the garden, the little library, the Peace Pole, support from PB Rotary, Friends of Pacific Beach Secondary Schools and others.

Luther Burbank (1849-1926), an American botanist and horticulturist, once said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.”

“Money is always tight. With a limited budget I’m hoping we receive seed and plant donations … especially flowers,” Kaufman said.

Donations to support the garden are being accepted. For details, email