Texas students grow community connection with school garden

Starting a pollinator garden has helped students at this urban San Antonio school to connect with nature.

Jessica Avalos-Alvarez teaches at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy in San Antonio, Texas. After hearing about the funding available through the San Antonio Community Challenge, supported by Microsoft, she decided to work with other teachers and fourth grade students to develop a pollinator garden on campus.

As the school is located in an inner city neighborhood, creating a pollinator-friendly environment within the school grounds offered a rare chance for students to connect with nature. “Within the community near our school, where most of our children live, there are limited flowers around,” Jessica says.

She explains that the pollinator garden project complemented the school’s existing community vegetable garden, where students had already grown and harvested pumpkins, cucumbers, bell peppers and jalapenos.

Students and teachers meet to plan their project

With many people from the local neighborhood already availing of the school’s community garden to pick fresh vegetables, Jessica says the addition of a pollinator garden helped build understanding among pupils and the wider community of the importance of pollination and its relationship to the fruits and vegetables we eat.

The school’s ethos means that pupils are given a lot of responsibility when it comes to new initiatives, with Jessica explaining that fourth-graders worked on the concept for the pollinator garden, and then helped with digging, planting, mulching and daily watering.

She says that this hands-on involvement had created a real sense of pride for students, and allowed them to feel very connected to the space.

One particular moment with a student really highlights the garden’s impact for her. “We’d spent all morning in the garden, and it was really beautiful with the flowers in full bloom, and bees and butterflies flying about,” she recalls. “I noticed that one young boy had taken some flowers and was pressing them in a book.”

At first, she gently pointed out to the young boy that the flowers in the garden were for everyone to enjoy, and shouldn’t be plucked. But his response struck a chord.

“He explained that he had never seen flowers like these before, and had seen a Tik Tok video on how to press flowers and was excited to try it out. I really saw then how this project had impacted him, how the garden had afforded him an opportunity to make a connection with nature and experience something for the first time.”

 

This ability for students to connect with nature is one of the major benefits of the pollinator garden, according to Jessica.

“Many of our kids have grown up in very urban area and they just don’t get to see that much of nature. So this project has given them a chance to really admire the beauty that nature can be.”

 

 

As well as giving students a new appreciation for nature, teachers at the school have also been able to use the garden project to bring lessons to life for students. For example, Jessica says that the project has strong links to the science curriculum.

And the garden project has had an impact in the wider community too. ‘We’ve seen community members stop by and take photos of the flowers in bloom,” Jessica says.

“It truly has been a wonderful experience seeing everyone come together over a common connection. This garden is very much part of our community and has enriched it.”

 

Inspired by Jessica’s story? Start a Pollinator Partnership project today in your community!

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