Third-graders learn about butterflies by planting gardens

SNOHOMISH — They get to dig in the dirt. That’s half the fun.

Third-graders at Emerson Elementary in Snohomish have been working on a vegetable garden and a butterfly garden on campus. The students have been learning about the life cycle of the butterfly as part of the project.

On Jan. 29, the kids helped move and break up a fresh load of soil. Asia Kajla, 8, used gloved hands to shovel dirt into the buckets being carried to the garden by teachers and volunteers.

“There are going to be butterflies, and I love butterflies,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot of big scientific words.”

Emerson has about 340 students in grades three through six. Second-graders from nearby Central Primary Center are making birdbaths so that when they arrive for third grade in the fall, they’ll have something “to recognize as theirs,” said Kelly O’Donaughy, PTA co-vice president.

A butterfly-shaped mosaic sign planned for the garden will feature a piece contributed by each student at Emerson, said third-grade teacher Kim Moritz, who is coordinating the gardens.

“It will be cool,” she said. “Every student at Emerson will be contributing in some way.”

At one point during a recent gardening time, volunteer Sara Weber Quinton asked the kids: “Does anyone want to take a break?”

The answer came in unison: “No!”

The vegetable garden, started a few years ago, has produced carrots, snow peas and lettuce, Weber Quinton said. The kids get to eat some of the food, and some of this year’s bounty will go to the food bank, Moritz said.

The butterfly garden is new, though.

“All the butterflies will like it when it’s all done,” said Ava Gail, 8.

“We learned some big words like larvae,” she said. “I forgot some of the words, but there’s chrysalis.”

Cassie Chin, 8, and Lochlan Schaefer, 9, were tasked with breaking up the dirt clods in the fresh soil. Lochlan pretended to crush the clods like they were rocks crumbling in his hands.

Talo Floyd, 8, likes “how the butterfly eggs are as tiny as the tip of a pen,” he said. “I learned that nobody knows what’s inside the chrysalis.”

The project is mostly funded by donations and grants, Moritz said.

In addition to science, gardening teaches patience, cooperation and math, Moritz said. The butterfly garden is expected to near completion before school lets out in June.

“That’s what we’re working toward and the kids are excited,” she said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

How to help

Classes at Emerson Elementary in Snohomish are working on a vegetable garden and butterfly garden on campus. Donation needs include arches, garden tools, gloves, outdoor benches and wheelbarrows. An art project related to the gardens also has donation needs, such as birdhouses, crafting supplies and sandpaper. For more information, call 360-563-7173.

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