Anoka County 4-Hers explore the butterfly
4-Hers combed the fields, paths and gardens around the Bunker Hills Activity Center in Andover in search of a flighty insect: the butterfly.
These kids are part of the Project Butterfly WINGS program offered for fourth- through eighth-grade 4-Hers for three days this summer: June 18, June 25 and July 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
After learning through a butterfly curriculum taught by Anoka County Master Gardener Terri Haynes, students brought their research clipboards outside to mark down all the moths and butterflies that they saw. They broke up into groups and kept track of the identifying characteristics of the insects they came across.
“You have to look everywhere when you’re outside investigating,” Haynes told the 4-Hers.
Haynes said they take an average of their totals in case they spot the same butterfly or moth multiple times. During the first session, they learned the identifying characteristics for several types of butterflies, as well as the differences between butterflies and moths.
Haynes taught students how to identify milkweed and the patterned edges on milkweed leaves that indicate monarch larvae have been feeding on them.
According to Haynes, outdoor exploration for butterflies is where students get to learn through all five senses.
Afterwards, they return to the activity center and try to identify what they saw outside and learn more about butterflies through different games. Throughout the three sessions 4-Hers will learn about butterfly life cycles, identification, families, behaviors and more. They will also utilize the WINGS Youth Guide and interactive website.
Project Butterfly WINGS is an inquiry based experience. WINGS stands for Winning Investigative Network for Great Science. Through inquiry learning, students are supposed to discover what interests them and use their skills to increase their knowledge.
“They’re getting a sense of how to go out in the world and ask those questions,” 4-H Program Coordinator Anna Gilbertson said.
All the data students collect over the three sessions is entered into an online database as a citizen science data collection to benefit the field of butterfly science. The database is primarily coordinated by the University of Florida and the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Gilbertson said Project Butterfly WINGS’ objectives are to engage youth in science, have them learn about butterflies and their role in the environment, have them contribute to hands-on collaborative research and engage them in guided and youth-initiated inquiry.
Master Gardener Susan Peterson said fourth- through eighth-grade is a good age group for an exploratory project like Butterfly WINGS because of their ability to stay focused.
Many of the 4-H members already had an interest in butterflies and signed up to learn more.
“I’ve counted 32 moths. It’s a great day to be alive,” 4-Her Steven Morse said. “I just thought I could catch more butterflies for my collection and learn more about them.”
4-Her Andy Heaton caught a butterfly and brought it back to the classroom to examine.
“I know a lot about monarchs, but I don’t know much about other caterpillars,” Heaton said in reference to why he joined the program.
“I wanted to learn more about the other butterflies.”
This is the first year 4-H has hosted Project Butterfly WINGS. The program is funded primarily by a grant from the Anoka County Farm Bureau, according to Gilbertson.
Bethany Kemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org