Learning to Love Lepidopterology

A butterfly sits on leaves
Locust Valley Intermediate School science lab coordinator, Caroline McBride recently stood outside the school with a monarch butterfly resting on her finger. She walked around to each student in the class and showed them the colorful insect up close, reinforcing lessons they had learned during classroom instruction, including how to tell if the specimens were male or female. Asking if they knew whether she was holding a male or female, they did know, based on the markings on its wings.
 
The butterfly Mrs. McBride held had been a resident of a screened habitat that was constructed by the husband of third-grade teacher, Diane Yanez. Through the screens, third-graders witnessed the actual life-cycle of painted lady butterflies, monarch butterflies and luna moths. They visited daily to see which insects had emerged, noting how long it took, what they looked like and their habits. In conjunction with this observation, students learned how to use a microscope to view slides of insect body parts and enhanced their research skills by further researching other butterfly and moth species in the library.
 
“The butterfly habitat literally brought our lesson to life, helping students to see first-hand what they were learning and appreciate the beauty of nature,” Mrs. McBride said.
 
After the insects emerged from their pupas, students said farewell by releasing them outside of the school. Some flew off immediately, while others lingered on tree branches, the school building, or even on Mrs. McBride’s fingers.

With their scientific study of the butterflies and moths, these students would make any lepidopterologist proud.