Nearly 600 third-grade students release butterflies at Ford Park on Thursday, May 19 |

Nearly 600 third-grade students release butterflies at Ford Park on Thursday, May 19

Daily staff report
Katie Johnson, of Eagle, proudly displays her butterfly. This year's Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Butterfly Launch happens today at 11:30 a.m.
Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Butterfly Launch.

When: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 19.

Where: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, 530 South Frontage Road E., Vail.

More information: Call 970-476-0103, or visit

VAIL — Sometimes it feels like winter will never end, but when 600 third-grade students unleash nearly 600 butterflies into the air, spring has truly sprung. Today beginning at 11:30 a.m., Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and Ford Park will be filled with curious minds and an abundance of energy, as students congregate to release the butterflies. The annual Butterfly Launch is a highly anticipated event for both students and teachers.

In third grade, students learn that the stages of life are different among species. Butterflies demonstrate one of the most visibly dramatic changes. The insects are considered to be advanced and 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 to 18 days, and the pupa, or chrysalis, stage lasts about 10 days. Adult butterflies live for two weeks.

This dynamic learning project helps meet the National Science Education Standards curriculum content for third-grade students. Today, the children, their teachers and other members of the community join together for a festive release of the butterflies. The day includes live entertainment and educational activities, including a scavenger hunt, pollination relay races and displays of the North American monarch and Nature’s Educators.

Masked Man Services, First Bank and Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate helped the Gardens purchase the butterfly kits, which were delivered to 23 classrooms in April. The kits included a viewing net, caterpillars and food. Throughout the course of a month, the students watched the caterpillars morph into butterflies.

“The school teachers and administrators are so excited when we deliver the Butterfly kits,” said Liz Campbell, development director for Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

All three of Susan Swimm’s children have participated in the launch, and she is very enthusiastic about the event.

“The buzz of nature is in the air, and the Butterfly Launch marks springtime in the Rockies,” she said.

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