Kids set butterflies free at Head Start

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Dayville - posted Tue., May. 31, 2011
(l to r) Elijah Smith, Talon Benjamin, Skylar Steele and Sally Faford turned into butterflies for the Head Start butterfly program . Photos by D. Coffey
(l to r) Elijah Smith, Talon Benjamin, Skylar Steele and Sally Faford turned into butterflies for the Head Start butterfly program . Photos by D. Coffey

The children at Head Start in Killingly have been witnesses to a magical transformation these last four weeks. They've watched tiny caterpillars turn into butterflies - beautiful orange-winged painted ladies. To celebrate the wonder of it all, they held a butterfly release party on May 26.

The children also turned into butterflies for the event, with wings they made themselves. They even served hors d'oeuvres – bananas and pretzels - to invited guests.

Amy Vallandingham, head teacher in the six-hour room, said her 18 students were fascinated with the project from start to finish. The caterpillars arrived as tiny, inch-long creatures. The kids watched for two weeks while each one spun a chrysalis - or protective covering – around itself, while it changed from caterpillar into butterfly. It took another few weeks for the butterflies to emerge from the casings. The butterflies were painted ladies, 2-inch butterflies with orange wings, with black spots and white edges.

“They drew pictures at every stage,” Vallandingham said. “We read the books, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ by Eric Carle and ‘Butterfly,’ by Susan Canizares. They kids made up their own stories about them.”

The project gave the kids a chance to learn a life lesson that combined science, reading, writing, art and music. And the best part was that it culminated in a joyful group project.

Julia Vander Schel said her son, Michael, came home with reports every day on the project. On Thursday, Michael wore his own wings proudly. They were two-tone red and purple wings, covered in red and orange spots.

As the butterflies were about to be released and all the parents had gathered, the children arranged themselves on the outdoor patio. With Mrs. J. conducting, the children sang a goodbye song to the butterflies. Vallandingham took the mesh cages housing the painted ladies and opened the tops. One by one, she coaxed them out. The delicate orange creatures took to the air and went out into the world.

“They're going home,” Nataliya Delvalle said wisely.


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