Second graders release butterflies

Second grader Abe Smith was among those who released butterflies last
week in Murn Park.

By Kay Braddock

  It’s been a world of butterfly wonder for second graders, explained second grade teacher Cindi Mahan in a recent email.  

Watching the metamorphosis of butterflies began in mid-April, after a handful of caterpillars arrived to the classroom. The class science project would see its concluding moments last week, with students releasing their Painted Lady Butterflies in Murn Park.
“The kids were so excited and so very gentle with their butterflies,” Mahan said. “We all had mixed emotions about releasing them.” 
The project began with each child preparing cups with food where caterpillars were placed inside. 
Through a magnifying glass, students saw the growth and change of the caterpillars and were able to detect the various parts of a caterpillar. Students also learned that a caterpillar has to molt – shed its skin - several times as it grows.
Around the beginning of May, caterpillars began to change even more. The first change included the J formation caterpillars undergo. From there, they began to make their chrysalis. 
Students learned that a butterfly makes a chrysalis while a moth makes a cocoon. 
Placed in a glass tank that sat on a desk in the center of the classroom, students watched as caterpillars began to emerge from their chrysalis.
“We were fortunate enough to see not one but two of the butterflies emerge,” Mahan said. 
This process takes about 10 seconds. 
Butterflies emerged with wrinkled wings – much to the amazement of the students. After a butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, reddish fluid (meconium) is pumped through its wings to make them stronger. This process takes about 2-3 hours. While all of this is going on they’re also working on joining the two sections of their proboscis. Butterflies do not eat for the first couple of days. Eventually they begin to feed on sugar water. 
Waiting for a non-rainy day this spring to release the butterflies proved to be one of the more challenging aspects of the project, Mahan said.

Published May 25, 2011

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