Tiny Forest Inauguration 

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On March 7, 2024, the community of Sam Houston Elementary in McAllen came together to plant 1,800 native trees and shrubs in a 10,000-square-foot area. This created Quinta Mazatlán’s second school and Tiny Forest. A Tiny Forest is a small, densely planted environment of native plants, just larger than a tennis court, designed to be placed in city spaces.

Led by principal Jessica Lowe, the students began the Tiny Forest inauguration with a skit titled, “I speak for the trees as they have no voice.” Thirty students each presented a different native plant and spoke of “their” benefits to both people and wildlife. McAllen City Commissioner Rodolfo “Rudy” Castillo and Commissioner Tony Aguirre also spoke of the many benefits of a Tiny Forest for the children and the surrounding community.

The concept of Tiny Forests, a unique initiative, was inspired by the observations of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. During his visits to old temples in Japan, he noticed remnants of historic forests surrounding them, which he referred to as “tiny forests.” Miyawaki studied the composition of these old forests and successfully recreated one in his hometown. Miyawaki, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 93, is credited with growing over 1,300 Tiny Forests.

Tiny Forests offer a host of significant benefits. They serve as a science education tool, providing an outdoor living laboratory and forest curriculum. Moreover, they address three critical environmental issues that are crucial throughout our students’ lives: climate change, loss of forests and green spaces, and biodiversity loss. The past year, the RGV experienced a record high of 97 days over 100 degrees, tripling the number from just a decade before, underscoring the urgency of such initiatives.

The Executive Director of Quinta Mazatlán, Colleen Hook, thanked the Friends of Quinta Mazatlán nonprofit group for raising over $30,000 for the schoolyard Tiny Forest. She said, “Our valuable partnership with McAllen ISD is one that will continue to grow to benefit both education and the environment.”

Colleen Curran Hook