The wind moves some leaves and a butterfly flutters flower from flower, while children watch in wonder. This scene will be common place in several campuses on the McAllen ISD—ten campuses, to be exact—in their newly-planted Monarch gardens.
For a while now, the Monarch butterfly population has been going down at an alarming rate, due to loss of habitat, pesticide and herbicide overuse, and disease. Monarch butterflies pass through the Valley in their journey to and from Michoacan, Mexico, where they overwinter, to places north (all the way to Canada) where they spend the summer. To help them, we can plant a Monarch garden. Butterfly gardens located in homes, businesses, places of worship, schools –really, anywhere there is a patch of soil– provide much needed habitat for butterflies.
This is where the school gardens come in. School gardens have been extolled as having many benefits for children, ranging from academic to social to health. They connect students with something larger than themselves and shows them how they are part of the ecosystem/environment.
In addition, by planting a garden, students are learning they can have a positive effect on the environment and are taking action on an issue– in this case, the decline of the Monarch population. Thus, students are participative citizens in providing a solution to help an environmental issue, which fosters environmental stewardship from an early age.
Last year Quinta Mazatlan reached out to McAllen ISD schools to see if they would be interested in creating Monarch butterfly gardens. Ten schools stepped up to the call and replied they would like to take action and help the monarch. They are 7 elementaries (Fields, Garza, Gonzalez, Hendricks, Perez, Rayburn, and Thigpen-Zavala) and 3 high schools (IB/Lamar Academy, Memorial, and Rowe). These gardens are certified with the National Wildlife Federation, and thus are part of the McAllen’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge (an initiative to help the Monarchs) and the McAllen ISD Schoolyard Habitat District.
Funding for the plants given to nine of the schools was provided by generous donations of guests at Moon Over Mazatlan, our yearly fundraiser. Schools received native nectar and host plants, and guidance from Quinta Mazatlan if needed. Schools provided their enthusiasm, time, elbow grease, and anything else needed to make this happen. One school funded the project itself, as there were no funds available yet.
Schools tackled this in different ways: gardens were projects for a class, grade, garden club or other student organizations, or a graduation requirement, ranging from Kinder-age students to high school seniors. Adult leaders included teachers of various grades, coaches, principals, custodians, and parent volunteers, without whom this project would not have been possible.
Quinta Mazatlan congratulates these teachers and students who decided to take on an extra project to help the beautiful Monarch. The hope is these gardens and story inspire others to plant more native gardens. You can make a difference, just like these schools.
For more information on how to make a butterfly garden and certify it, please check out our website: http://www.quintamazatlan.com/nativeplants/mayorsmonarchpledge.aspx.