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Farias Early Childhood Center’s student garden recently was certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
The Farias garden provides a haven for small animals and insects that desperately need homes in Houston’s urban environment. In order to achieve certification, the garden had to meet criteria such as providing cover, nectar, and water for wildlife.
The garden includes a pond and a surrounding grassy area o that frogs easily can hop out of the pond and hide when threatened. This is one way the garden provides cover for wildlife.
One of the major lessons students learn in the garden is how to be good stewards of the environment, ideally encouraging pre-schoolers to continue that environmental stewardship into adulthood.
Principal Sandra Menxueiro credited her hard-working staff, including garden coordinator Janice Brown and science teacher Belinda Nava, with ensuring the success of the program. Brown helped plan garden additions and lesson for the outdoor classroom, and Nava guides the students in detailed study of activity in the garden.
“I have always had a great desire for students who live in the city to understand where their food comes from and how to make healthy eating choices with that knowledge. I also want every child to learn about and have close encounters with nature,” Menxueiro said. “Because our students live in the city, many of them had never seen a dragonfly, but … now they see dragonflies all the time. The wonder of nature is an important part of growing up, and I want to ensure the children of Farias experience this vital part of life.”
Students are growing their own food and watching hundreds of little visitors in their garden. Butterfly species such as Monarchs, the native Gulf Coast fritillary, and yellow sulfurs all call the Farias garden home. Other creatures that can be identified are the Gulf Coast toad, bronze toad, and green tree frogs. Only Gulf Coast toads lived on the property before the extension of the garden. After the shallow frog pond was added, the other species migrated there.
“My mission in life is to teach people, especially children, about nature. My deepest hope is that somewhere down the line, these students will have a deep love of nature – even if they can’t remember it all started in pre-kindergarten,” Brown said.
To hear more about the day-to-day happenings in the Farias garden, follow them on Twitter: @FariasGarden