Every butterfly garden at a time makes a difference! McAllen ISD partnered with Quinta Mazatlán and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Learning Landscapes Collaborative to install butterfly gardens on school grounds.

In 2017, the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) Learning Landscapes was designated as a Conservation Wrangler by Texan by Nature, a conservation organization founded by former First Lady Laura Bush. The LRGV Learning Landscapes Collaborative is a regional project between four school districts (McAllen ISD, Donna ISD, PSJA ISD, and Harlingen ISD), Quinta Mazatlán, Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Third grade teachers in these school districts receive curriculum training for the Learning Landscapes at workshops, as gardens are added to their schools. These school districts are also pursuing the National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat Certification.

Quinta Mazatlan is proud to announce the completion of four Learning Landscape gardens at Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Dr. Pablo Perez, and Juan Seguin Elementary schools in McAllen ISD. Students and teachers were excited to have butterfly plants added to their schoolyards. Third graders planted the garden in pairs, careful to make sure each plant was safely removed from the pot and placed in the ground. Even during the plantings wildlife was found – butterflies, earthworms, beetle larvae, and spiders had “oohs” and “aahs” ringing in the air.

There were many people involved in the process to make this a success. At McAllen ISD, Wendy Grohler, Elementary Science Coordinator, was the lead coordinator with the school district and Facilities Maintenance & Operation’s Assistant Director Antonio Perez and Athletic Fields Director Alfredo Rodriguez along with their crew prepared the sites for planting. Quinta Mazatlán’s Native Garden Project Coordinator Silvia Barr designed the garden, arranged plant delivery, and provided guidance to the children during the planting. Each campus gave its full support to the project.

These gardens serve as outdoor classrooms for students and habitats for pollinators – a beneficial relationship like that of pollinators and flowering plants. Studies shows that school gardens have positive impacts on students’ academic performance and well-being.

At the same time, these gardens provide sustenance for butterflies. Butterfly counts at similar gardens in Quinta Mazatlán recorded over 1,000 butterflies in just 6 hours of surveys, over a 7-week span in the summer.

In 2016, Mayor Jim Darling proclaimed that the City of McAllen would take the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, a National Wildlife Federation program dedicated to saving the monarch butterfly. This iconic species not only has a spectacular life cycle, but also serves as a symbol for the pollinator community. By saving the monarch we are also helping all the other pollinators so important for our ecosystems.

The simple, enjoyable act of creating a garden and the satisfaction when butterflies alight on colorful flowers is rewarding enough. Add on a child’s smile and the knowledge they gain, and now you have a Learning Landscape. For more information on butterfly garden designs and beneficial native plants, visit www.quintamazatlan.com.