Sunday, December 16, 2018
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Sharyland ISD’s Bentsen Elementary will soon have its own wildlife garden and certified junior master gardeners on campus.20151106 N1505P48004H

A wildlife garden targets the ecosystem and how the lifecycles of different species depend on the plant life. For example, the insects may need it for food and then some other wildlife may need those insects for food.

“Kids live in suburban communities where they don’t realize that used to be a monte or that use to be a field or pasture. It’s disappearing from their lives,” fourth grade teacher Armando Arechiga said. “Now they get to see that connection of the cycle of life.”

Arechiga received a $373-grant from the Sharyland Education Foundation to complete the course that he probably wouldn’t have covered without the funds, he said. Sofia Gilliland, Selena Escamilla and Olga Morado’s classes will also be participating and using the grant money.

The garden curriculum is developed by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. A 12-lesson plan is laid out for the teachers and once the course is complete as well as actual gardening, the students will receive their junior master gardener certificate.

Arechiga said the students will focus on native plants to better understand their environment. Some of the plants will include milkweed, manzanilla and turk’s caps.

“What I like about it is for students to actually see that there is a science behind it, that’s it’s not just somebody planting plants like a gardener,” Arechiga said. “They get to do research...and then they start to understand that there are very specific things in nature.”

Members of the Deep South Texas Master Gardeners will be helping out both as guest lecturers and with the garden. Arechiga said he hopes to also bring in master naturalists form Bentsen State Park.

The courses are cross-curricular, which means they’ll include lessons in science, math and social studies.

“A lot of times it’s difficult for students to read about it in a book and relate to it,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to them until they get out and actually do it with their hands and there’s a lot of ‘aha’ moments.”

The ground where the garden will be located must be cleared before the students can get involved and that process can take some time. Arechiga said he must decide if he wants to begin the garden before or after Christmas break.

If he begins after, he said he runs the risk of not dedicating enough time to the garden due to state testing preparation. But if he begins the garden before December, the plants may die in winter. However, because the plants will be native to the Valley, they are more likely to survive.

“Whatever we do get in the ground it will be eye opening to the kids and I will be happy about that,” Arechiga said. “‘It’s really a good opportunity for kids to experience something different.”