Butterfly celebration takes wing at school

October 12, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

The procession of 5-year-olds with orange and black wings tied to their tiny shoulders floated from classroom to classroom, leaving a scattering of candy in their wake.

It was a parade, but not a Halloween parade. It was more of a nature parade.

Assuming the 13 monarch butterflies they raised from infancy have alighted by now on Mexican fir trees 2,000 miles south, the kindergartners of William Winchester Elementary marked the occasion in much the same way children in Mexico welcome the migratory butterflies.

The first week of school, teacher Pam Hildenbrand and assistant Sharon Fischer brought in 13 caterpillars and a bunch of milkweed to fatten them.

As part of their science unit, the children watched the caterpillars chomp leaves in a screened box until they could do nothing but hang from twigs and spin chrysalides around themselves, turning into the gold-studded green sacs that hide the transformation to butterfly.

When the butterflies emerged, the children set them free.

"Some of them didn't want to go," recalled Kara Geiman, 5, daughter of Pat and Brian Geiman of Westminster.

But even the most hesitant finally took off for the famous monarch sanctuaries in Mexico's highlands.

Two years ago, William Winchester, like some other elementary schools in Carroll County, dropped its Halloween parade.

But a lot of children still want to don costumes in October.

Mrs. Hildenbrand found a way to let them dress up in a new context -- science, with a little social studies lesson thrown in.

For years, kindergartners have watched the monarch caterpillars transform into butterflies.

In Mexico, children welcome the migrant monarchs by wearing orange, black and white wings and passing out treats.

Mrs. Hildenbrand learned of the festival in a children's book she lTC uses, "Monarch Butterfly" by Gail Gibbons.

She decided to throw a companion festival at Winchester.

The children made their own wings and headbands.

They painted the cardboard wings black on both sides, then glued on strips and triangles of orange construction paper and white cotton balls.

Black ribbons tied the wings to their shoulders

Black paper headbands with pipe-cleaner antennae topped the costumes, which some children will recycle the last day of this month as Halloween costumes.

"It took us about 2 1/2 weeks to get it all together," Mrs. Hildenbrand said.

And every step along the way, Dustin Johnson has been keeping his mother informed of the butterfly development and costume-making, she said.

Ruth Bowmen and a dozen other parents came to watch, snap pictures and shoot videos.

"This is real cute," she said.

As the children filed from classroom to classroom, they were almost as quiet as butterflies.

Mrs. Hildenbrand led the line, handing out rolls of tart candy. Mrs. Fischer brought up the rear of the line, also with a basket of candy.

The older children the school smiled and indulged the proud, winged youngsters, but when they got to the Head Start classroom, the 4-year-olds looked upon the kindergartners with great admiration.

"See?" Mrs. Hildenbrand said, picking up on the enthusiasm the Head Starters exuded.

"When you get to kindergarten, we'll do something special like this, too."

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