PHARR – What was inspired by an interactive history lesson, has sprouted into a beautiful new community garden at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s Buell Central Campus thanks to two generous grants totaling $24,500 from Lowe’s.

According to Buell Central Social Studies Teacher Stacey Proctor, the project was inspired by a lesson on the "Homestead Act of 1862" that taught students about how the early settlers were able to keep over 160 acres of land if they raised livestock or cultivated. Through project-based learning, students were then inspired to find ways to cultivate their own food through a community garden.

“This PSJA Community Garden is open to the entire PSJA district and residents,” said Proctor during a grand opening celebration held Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. “We want students to learn to grow their own food and know where their food is coming from. Thank you to Lowe’s for their generous donation. They helped bring a dream to fruition.”

According to the social studies teacher, the grants of $23,000 and $1,500 were used to create a “Greenhouse That Gives Back” solar-powered classroom equipped with a lab/kitchen and hydroponic system and several lifted outside garden beds accessible for all students.

As part of this work, PSJA ISD students from middle school and high school employ a variety of project-based learning activities focused on sustainability and conservation inside and outside the classroom inspired by the United Nations-17 Sustainable Goals. Some of their many projects include hydroponics and aquaponic gardens, sustainable agriculture through vertical gardening, organic composting, and even the use of renewable energy through their own solar-powered golf cart and wind energy kite-project.

In addition to the community garden at Buell, at PSJA ISD students get to learn about sustainability and environmental awareness through their curriculum and extracurricular organizations. Many get to learn about nature and the environment through outdoor classrooms that feature native habitat gardens.

As part of the event, Buell Green Inc. invited dozens of elementary students from Marcia Garza Elementary and the PSJA Pathways Toward Independence/LIFE Program to help plant inside the new raised garden beds.

“My favorite sustainability goal is no poverty and gender equality,” said Derick Villarreal, a 1st grader at Marcia Garza Elementary. “It’s important because there are people that don’t have food and for people to know that pink is not just for girls it’s for boys too. We want everybody to like everybody.”

Seeing the impact their donation had on the students and community, Pharr Lowe’s Store Manager Bernardo Claros felt honored to have helped give back.

“I am at a loss for words,” said Claros. “It’s absolutely important for us to give through projects like these. As a company, we are honored to be part of something bigger and give back to our community.”