McALLEN – Equipped with their gardening gloves, Chris Mendez and Mayor Jim Darling planted milkweed at Andrew Jackson elementary for Monarch butterflies during their great migration.

Mendez along with the rest of his third grade classmates participated in the project dubbed Learning Landscapes that creates not only a place to learn but a place where native plants attract wildlife.

“It's really exciting to see native plants and to attract animals and that way they don't go extinct,” Mendez said. “That's why we want to take good care of our garden and hopefully everybody can start planting native plants in our community.”

At a luncheon last month with former First Lady Laura Bush, $500 mini grants were raised to supply all the native plants for the schools. Working closely with Quinta Mazatlan teachers with the McAllen school district learn what it takes to lead an outdoor classroom.

“We've written curriculum so the children can use this as an outdoor learning lab all year long,” Quinta Mazatlan manager Coleen Hook said. “We're starting with third graders and we're going to write curriculum for fifth, seventh and eighth grade.”

Leadership at McAllen school district has committed to add native butterfly gardens in 50 percent of the district's campuses. Hook hopes it continues to grow outside of the school district in places like businesses and private land owners.

“It's improving and expanding nature one backyard at a time,” Hook said. “It is a simple concept because we can all play a role, we all have some influence on some yard whether it's ours or a school yard.”