As bleak as 2020 has been, the Equality Garden Club is creating beauty at Wilton Manors Elementary School.

With children attending school at home this spring and summer, the school’s butterfly garden in the courtyard fell into complete disarray. When children returned to school in a hybrid model, school staff reached out to the garden club to help them bring it back to life.

“It’s really like an outdoor learning classroom and a place where you can go to enjoy nature and have a little bit of peace outside of the classroom,” said Melissa Holtz, the principal at Wilton Manors Elementary School.

The school had a previous relationship with Equality Garden Club. In 2019, they were stumped as to why their butterfly garden was not thriving. The volunteers came in and taught them about Florida native plants and tips to help them keep it going.

However, it became too overwhelming during the pandemic. Now, the garden club will be the official groundskeepers for the garden, which also has picnic tables, benches, stepping stones and other places to relax.

“It was in really bad shape,” said Mario Rios, who serves on the board of the club. “It was full of weeds, a lot of dead plants, we lost a lot of plants and we had to redo it.”

The club spent $500 to purchase new plants and put in mulch. Now, there are Panama rose shrubs, Jatropha trees, dwarf burning bushes, scorpion tails, hue herbs, and different species of milkweed, which attracts butterflies. Rios expects that in a few months it will be “back to life.”

Not only does the garden serve as a relaxing place to have lunch or take a break, but Holtz said that teachers will also read stories to children there or teach them about nature and the life cycle of butterflies. It’s also a quiet place for children with special needs to decompress. While the school is not at full capacity, there are 260 children attending school in person and the garden is a place where they can easily be 6 feet apart.

It’s also an opportunity for the children to see a tenet of the International Baccalaureate school in action: helping.

“One of the things that we teach our kids is to take action when they see a problem that they have the ability to make a difference. We have a community member who sees that we have a need and they’re willing to come into the school and take action to help us,” she explained. “It’s out of the kindness of their heart. They see we have a need and they jumped into action to help us.”