Stories From The Garden: Butterfly Magic in a School Garden

 In Environmental Education, School Gardens, Science Exploration

Welcome to Stories from the Garden, our new series of posts highlighting stories from Explore Ecology Garden Educators who work with children in 35 school gardens throughout Santa Barbara County. Every school day, our educators connect children to nature and teach them how to grow organic food using the garden as an outdoor classroom.

This post comes from Bennett Rock.

One day there was a shrill of excitement near the school garden orchard. A third grade student had discovered a monarch butterfly chrysalis hanging underneath the Fuyu Persimmon sign. The news spread faster than a baseball could be thrown. Soon a swarm of students were on the scene, howling with “oohh’s” and “aahh’s” of curiosity. It seemed to take every ounce of effort for them to not touch the delicate chrysalis. The students had just covered the stages of metamorphosis in science class and I was thrilled about the timing. At the same time, I questioned the fate of the pupa being so exposed and having so many anxious youngsters fighting back their curiosity and temptation. All the kids all knew about it and I was surprised each week to see it still hanging there.

The following week I was escorted to the orchard and surprised to discover the chrysalis was still intact. During open garden time the students would take turns watching it. They were poised with patience and anticipation as they waited for the momentary crescendo… but, nothing happened. The science teacher kept spirits alive by informing students that it looked healthy and was not damaged by a parasitic fly.

The monarch took its very first flight during a garden class the following week. While exploring pollinators by the Dorsett apple tree, a second grade student got a firsthand experience with the new pollinator. The butterfly had emerged and taken its first flight! Its first and second landings were quite a hit. (See photos) It didn’t get very far with its new wings before landing right on the student’s nose. The class erupted in joy! Apparently learning to fly is not always simple. On its second attempt the butterfly ended up flying onto the classroom teacher’s hair.

It was a reminder to me of how just one insect can provide so many experiences and lasting memories in a school garden.

About Bennett Rock: Bennett is an Explore Ecology Garden Educator who strives to be a catalyst for youth to form connections with nature and food. Bennett’s background includes visiting new-born dairy cows at his uncle’s farm, sitting on hay bales while watching clouds form, and regular fishing trips to Lake Superior. Although not everyone has access to these experiences, we do all eat food. It is in this commonality that we can learn, connect, and grow regardless of accessibility. Bennett also has an M.S. in environmental education and over 10 years of experience working with youth in nature. When asked to join Explore Ecology in 2014, he packed his most valuable possessions into his Subaru Outback and made a 3 day trip from Madison, Wisconsin. This included his bin of red wiggler worms bestowed to him by Will Allen of Milwaukee’s Growing Power. The students of Santa Barbara and Goleta love hearing The Story of Todd the worm and Bennett’s other red wiggler friends.

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