STEM Summer Institute – Butterfly Release

It’s noon on Thursday and the elementary students at Southwest Key’s STEM Summer Institute are eagerly anticipating the afternoon’s activity.  This week’s theme – Living Systems – has given them the opportunity to watch caterpillars mature, cocoon, and develop into butterflies.  Today, a small flock of fluttering, newly-emerged butterflies await their release into the world from their netted captivity.

Teacher Jessica Lagalo verbally refreshes her young students’ memory on the caterpillar life cycle that they’ve witnessed this week before asking for volunteers to release the butterflies.  Hands shoot up, noise dissipates, and the students look up at their teacher with angelic expectation, hoping to be among the chosen.  With the signature diplomacy of a seasoned teacher, Lagalo chooses three students whom she identifies before the class as having been particularly helpful, industrious, and kind to others this week.  These three are carefully handed the enclosed butterfly nets, and the students shuffle out the door to the garden.

Once outside, the students gather around a green patch and, one-by-one, Lagalo helps the students release the butterflies from their makeshift homes.  Nets unzipped, she and her student helpers carefully pat around the sides of the containers and the butterflies are unleashed: some zooming to freedom, others flitting to the safety of a nearby bush, and a few simply flopping onto the ground, awaiting careful pick-up from students who want to save them from being “squashed.”

Butterfly catharsis completed, the students line up to go back inside the classroom.  This week’s lesson on the life cycle of these tiny creatures is sure to stick with them, as reminders will undoubtedly flap their wings before the students every once and a while.

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