Butterflies symbolize spring in Vail
May 25, 2011
VAIL – To the sound of an “uppity groove” and cheers of playful kids, painted lady butterflies filled the spring air in Vail Wednesday at America’s highest botanical garden.
An estimated 500 Eagle County third-graders participated in the annual Butterfly Launch at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, an event that since it began in the mid-1990s has become an annual rite of spring in the Vail Valley for students, parents and teachers.
The students, from 25 classes at 10 public and private schools throughout Eagle County, were supplied this spring with kits including a viewing net “sanctuary,” caterpillars and food. Over the course of about a month, they raised the caterpillars, watching as they pupated and turned into painted lady butterflies.
Just after noon Wednesday, the students assembled with their collective sanctuaries, opened the doors and watched as the butterflies they nurtured took flight for the first time.
“Fly, fly away!” cheered the students, including Cate Maslan, 8, who, along with her classmates from Eagle County Charter Academy, was excited to watch their two dozen or so butterflies take to the air.
“I think they are pretty and fascinating creatures,” Cate said. “It’s great to learn about how a creature is born, lives and survives in the wild.”
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This year’s Butterfly Launch was underwritten by the United Way of the Eagle River Valley and the Holy Cross Energy Round-Up Foundation in support of the gardens’ children’s education programs.
Ann Woodworth, a charter academy parent, said Betty Ford Alpine Gardens’ hosting the event is a “great thing,” not only for her daughter, Kayla, but for third-graders throughout the Vail Valley.
“Kayla just couldn’t wait to go to school every morning, to count the chrysalises,” Woodworth said, referring to the evolutionary stage between caterpillar and butterfly. “She would give me an update every day when she got home.”
Ella Clemens, a teacher at Avon Elementary School, said the project is an effective way to expose students to the magic of Mother Nature.
“It’s a great experience for the kids to see the life cycle,” Clemens said. “They even give the caterpillars and butterflies names, like ‘Creepy,’ ‘Crawly,’ and ‘Wiggle Butt.'”