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STEM and education

Rainer and the butterfly house

As part of a science project at school, Rainer’s class is developing a plan for creating a water–conserving garden. The garden will be located next to the playground behind the school. The class already decided that it wants to attract butterflies to the water–conserving garden. Now the students need to learn more about creating a habitat for butterflies. The class decided to take a field trip to the public gardens.

Rainer and his classmates followed a tour guide along the winding path through the maze of separate garden areas. They looked all around and made notes in their journals.

The tour guide stopped frequently to tell them about each of the areas.

“All the trees, shrubs, plants and ground covers that we use for landscaping are native to the area and they don’t need much water,” said the guide. “Everything you see in the landscape is well–suited to our natural conditions and climate.”

Just then, the tour guide noticed Emma closely watching the hundreds of butterflies fluttering around the orange, red, yellow and purple flowers that filled part of the garden.

“Butterflies are attracted to flowers with strong colors,” the guide told Emma. “They also like flowers that are very fragrant, because butterflies have a sensitive sense of smell. The butterflies search for sun–loving plants that can serve as good hosts on which they can lay their eggs.” “Are those butterflies drinking water?” asked Katie as she pointed to a group of butterflies around the edge of a small puddle.

“Yes, there are some butterflies that cannot survive on a diet of nectar alone. There are certain minerals that these butterflies need that are found in standing water or mud puddles. Creating a mud puddle or two in your garden is just another way of attracting butterflies to your garden,” said the guide.


“Do you have to use a lot of chemicals to keep insects out of the gardens?” asked Rainer.

“Oh, no,” replied the guide. “We don‘t use any chemicals. If we did, we wouldn‘t have any butterflies. This is an environmentally friendly garden where we don‘t depend on fertilizers and chemicals to create attractive landscapes.”

“Wow! That tree limb over there is covered with butterflies,” said Derrick.

“Those are monarch butterflies,” said the guide. “They are often called the ‘wanderers’ because they travel so far. Every year, hundreds of millions of them fly from the eastern part of the United States to Mexico. The trip may be more than 2,000 miles.

The monarchs sometimes use Florida as a resting place before flying across the Gulf of Mexico.”

“If I had to fly that far, I would need a rest too,” said Emma.

The students continued their walk through the gardens. They saw butterflies of many different colors, shapes and sizes. Butterflies seemed to be everywhere.

At the end of the walk, the guide made the following suggestion to the students:

“Remember, you have only taken the first step in learning about butterflies and environmentally friendly gardens,” said the guide. “You can continue to discover more by visiting other gardens, going to the library, using the Internet and creating your own garden.”

The students thanked the tour guide for their visit and returned to school to begin planning their garden.

Note: This story was first published in “Water Drops” by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and is republished with permission.


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