HCISD: HAEF Grant turns south butterfly garden into outdoor classroom



The Harlingen High School South Ecology Club was inspired by Homero Gomez Gonzalez, a staunch advocate of the central Mexican monarch butterfly population, to create a butterfly garden on campus four years ago.

“He was constantly fighting with logging companies to stop the destruction of the monarch’s habitat,” said Ruth Salazar, science professor and sponsor of the HHSS ecology club. “Sadly, in January 2020, he lost his battle against logging companies when he passed away. He inspired members of my eco club to pursue his passion to save the endangered monarch.”

This year, with renewed passion, students at Harlingen High School South are working to transform their butterfly garden into an outdoor classroom with help from the Harlingen Area Educational Foundation.

“My students and I want to create a lasting memory of the importance of saving an endangered species,” said Salazar. “My students believe that if we educate our entire campus about endangered species then we can make the world a better place.”

Salazar applied for and received a grant from HAEF to add 100% recycled plastic benches to the Butterfly Garden at Harlingen South High School to create an outdoor learning space where students can educate people about the preservation and protection of endangered species.

“The open-air classroom currently has two benches that need to be installed, and more must be installed before the open-air classroom can be completed,” Salazar said. “The engraved pews will recognize the foundation with its badge, HAEF.”

Through research, students learned that monarchs thrive best in ecosystems that provide native milkweed plants. So, they built planters in their garden and filled them with milkweed to lure the monarch away from the highways in Texas.

“Thousands of monarchs die each year as they migrate from Mexico to the United States,” said Salazar. “Most of them are struck by passing cars as they migrate through the Rio Grande Valley in search of food.”

The open-air classroom in the Butterfly Garden at Harlingen High School would allow butterflies to have a sanctuary while also being a space where students can go and continue the legacy of Homero Gomez Gonzalez. The outdoor classroom will be used to learn about native species and how to protect the environment starting locally in the valley.

The transformation of the butterfly garden at Harlingen High School South is currently a work in progress.

The ecology club is constantly planting new plants, repairing planters and pruning pre-existing plants in the future outdoor classroom.

“The creation of an outdoor classroom in the butterfly garden will be a stepping stone for our campus to be labeled as a habitat for native plants in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Salazar. “This will ensure that native milkweed plants continue to be planted in the butterfly garden for future generations. It will also ensure that our future generations can enjoy an outdoor classroom environment.

This press release was produced by Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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