Butterfly Gardens at Local Gainesville Schools

Andrei planting butterfly garden with schoolchildrenMany young children today are disconnected from the natural world, but a project to plant local butterfly gardens in area schools is closing the gap that exists between urban students and nature.

McGuire Center scientists began partnering with educators at a local elementary school in the fall of 2013 to open children’s eyes to the unique metamorphosis that occurs during butterfly development and the responsibilities involved in caring for a garden.

The City of Gainesville received its "Butterfly City" certification in 2009—the first awarded in the nation—as part of an effort to conserve Lepidoptera in urban areas. Andrei Sourakov, a lepidopterist at the McGuire Center, is hopeful local scientists and the Gainesville community will continue to strengthen the city’s status by planting butterfly gardens and bringing the classroom outside.

Fall 2014 – Williams Elementary

Thanks to the generous donations from the public, this garden was created on Oct. 20, 2014 by the Florida Museum’s staff and students together with 4th-graders from Williams Elementary.

Fall 2013 – Duval Elementary

Duval Elementary was the first school to participate in the butterfly garden program. 

Making a Difference at Duval

"We live in an environment where kids do not have enough exposure to nature in order to learn how it operates,” said Duval teacher Anterria Ellerbe. “Thanks to the garden, these students do not take the natural world around them for granted anymore."

The garden at Duval is teaching students how to be good stewards of the environment and providing them with a sense of accomplishment and responsibility, Sourakov said. He instructed the third-graders on how to care for the garden, and plant biology and entomology were integrated into the class’ science curriculum throughout the school year. The garden included nectar sources and host plants, on which butterflies lay their eggs. Students also kept a journal of their experiences in the garden and documented their newfound awareness of wildlife, including the life cycle of butterflies.

"I think co-existing with nature is something that is acquired through experiences,” Sourakov said. “This has to start with children and is best learned through outdoor experiences such as planting a butterfly garden. It is important that we begin to better appreciate wildlife, otherwise, development will continue to occur in places that should be conserved."

Spring 2016 – Norton and J.J. Finley Elementary

C. W. Norton and J. J. Finley school butterfly gardens were planted in April 2016

Spring 2015 – Spring 2016 Westwood Middle School

The project also assisted the local middle school in acquiring plants for their butterfly garden. Below you can see the evolution of the garden within one year.