VAIL — In third grade, students learn about the life cycles of animals and how those life cycles vary among species. Now in its 18th year, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens’ annual butterfly has become a rite of spring for nearly a generation of area children.
Every May, the Alpine Gardens partner with Eagle and Lake County public and private elementary schools to provide third-grade students a hands-on educational experience to better understand how nature changes larvae into butterflies. This dynamic learning project helps meet the National Science Education Standards curriculum content for grades K-8. The children, their teachers, and other members of the community join together for a celebratory release of hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies Thursday at noon. The afternoon event includes interactive learning games, a visit from the Denver Butterfly Pavilion and live entertainment.
Butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis with four distinct stages, the egg, larvae, pupa and adult butterfly. The eggs are mint green and barrel-shaped and hatch in three to five days. The larva or caterpillar molts five times as it grows over the course of 12-18 days and the pupa or chrysalis stage lasts about 10 days. Adult butterflies live for just two weeks.
“It is so refreshing for the student to get out of the classroom and into nature – especially in the spring. We are honored to once again host this incredible life sciences event” says Nicola Ripley, the gardens’ executive director.”
The students — from 27 classrooms in both public and private schools in Eagle and Lake County — were supplied with butterfly kits including a viewing net, caterpillars and food. Over the course of a month, they’ve raised the caterpillars, watching as each pupated and turned into a Painted Lady Butterfly ready to take flight.
This year’s Butterfly Launch is underwritten by United Way of the Eagle River Valley, Alpine Bank, Slifer Smith and Frampton Real Estate and the Holy Cross Energy Round-Up Foundation.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is the highest botanical garden in North America and serves as an outdoor classroom for families, from grand-parents to toddlers, to discover the wonders of the Rocky Mountains. The Gardens also serves as an important biological resource showcasing one of the best collections of alpine plants in the world. Located in the heart of Ford Park, the Alpine Gardens provides free access to an estimated 100,000 visitors annually.
For more information about the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, call 970-476-0103 or visit www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org.