Baskin Elementary in San Antonio receives $1,000 grant for pollinator program

by Paul Schattenberg, Texas A&M AgriLife

Baskin Elementary School in San Antonio recently received a $1,000 grant to establish a pollinator garden on the school campus.

The money, provided from a Feed-A-Bee program grant by the Bayer CropScience Division, was part of a larger grant given to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to fund pollinator initiatives and activities throughout Bexar County.

The Feed-A-Bee program is a nationwide initiative to help increase food availability for honey bees and other pollinators, according to program administrators.

“Baskin Elementary has been involved in several AgriLife Extension programs in the past, including 4-H, the Learn, Grow, Eat and Go! program and our nutrition education program,” said Ruby Zavala, AgriLife Extension youth gardens coordinator, Bexar County. “We already had a  solid partnership with the school, so it was a perfect fit to provide them with this grant to establish a pollinator garden.”

Zavala said the pollinator garden would be a teaching garden geared toward third-grade students, but students at other grade levels would be able to participate and learn from it.

The pollinator garden will be planted in a raised-bed garden area already built on the school grounds. For the winter, it will be planted with a variety of cold-tolerant ornamental plants and herbs known to attract pollinators, including delphinium, ruellia, blackfoot daisy, rosemary and Mexican heather.

“We hope that in the spring the school will use some of the grant money to purchase plants such as milkweed to attract monarch butterflies, along with parsley, dill and a variety of flowering ornamental plants that will attract other pollinators,” Zavala said.

Natalie Cervantes, AgriLife Extension agent for 4-H youth development, Bexar County, said the school has been very involved in the agency’s 4-H programs and the various educational opportunities and activities it offers.

“Many of those students involved in the 4-H program at Baskin will be participating in the planting and maintaining of the pollinator garden,” she said. “We hope this will be a good addition to the  hands-on educational experiences we try to provide through the program.” repetitive

Mary Ann Felix, a third-grade teacher at the school, is one of the instructors involved in the pollinator program.

“With help from the Bexar County Master Gardeners, we previously planted a fall vegetable garden in our raised-bed garden areas,” Felix said. “The students harvested fall vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, zucchini and squash. They were really excited to get the hands-on experience of growing and harvesting their own food.”

She also noted the school’s third-grade students had recently completed the 10-week Learn,  Grow, Eat and Go! curriculum provided at the school by AgriLife Extension personnel. The program included instruction on gardening, nutrition, healthful eating and preparing dishes using vegetables from the garden. off topic

“The whole idea behind our gardening efforts here at the school is to be sustainable and green,” Felix said. “We also want to get other members of the community involved and have already gotten support from our PTA and Lowe’s home improvement stores. We feel this pollinator garden is another way Baskin can be part of our School of Innovation initiative by providing creative and practical ways of applying classroom knowledge.”

School principal Valarie Garcia said the pollinator garden will not only allow students to learn about insects and what plants need to survive, it will give them practical experience with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, subjects.

“This and the other gardening activities at the school give them practical experience with subjects like science and math,” Garcia said. “We also plan to expand these gardening and horticultural activities to further beautify and benefit the school.”

Marian Carty, another third-grade teacher at the school involved in the pollinator project, said the garden will also help students learn why pollinators are important.

“It will give the students real-life experience in how to respect the environment and help them understand how vital pollinators like bees and butterflies are to agriculture,” she said. “It will also show them there are insects that are beneficial to us humans.”

Both Felix and Garcia noted further horticulture-related projects at the school will include the addition of small orchard, herb garden and greenhouse, as well as additional landscaping around the school campus.

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