Posted by: csdailyblog | March 2, 2011

Painted Lady Butterflies Released in Green Machine

In his tie-dyed t-shirt, Henry looks nearly as bright as the newly released painted lady butterfly perched on his finger.

Monday and Tuesday students moved the painted lady butterflies they have been rearing in the science labs to the Green Machine, our greenhouse/wastewater treatment plant, and released them. In science classes, students will continue to observe and take notes on their butterflies as they adapt to life in the Green Machine. (Take a look at the butterflies when they were tiny larvae in this post and as more mature larvae in this post.)

In the accompanying photos, you can see students admiring their newly released butterflies and also measuring one of the tanks in the Green Machine, which they will be planting with species that are nectar sources for the painted ladies. Meanwhile, the butterflies will feed on sugar water from the feeders students have set up for them.

Devon's butterfly holds its wings open to soak up some sunshine.

The particular tank students are working with is an anaerobic tank, which is covered with a grating, a layer of wood chips, and a layer of peat moss.  As part of the wastewater treatment process, the peat must remain wet.  The plants on top of the tank are useful in the process because they indicate how dry the peat moss is. If the plants are happy, then so is the peat moss, and if the plants are looking too dry, then the the peat moss is getting too dry, too. (Plants play somewhat different roles in some of the other tanks in the Green Machine — each tank has its own special function and process.)

As spring draws near (and it’s a late spring here in the Northwoods), students will turn their observation skills to monarchs, which return to Land O’ Lakes mid-May.

Rearing and observing butterflies is an engaging, hands-on way for students to develop observational skills and learn the scientific method. This ongoing activity helps students achieve one of our key Schoolwide Learning Goals — After a semester at Conserve School, a student demonstrates the inquiry-based, observational and reflective skills necessary to the development of an on-going sense of place — and is one component of a National Science Foundation-funded science curriculum that we are piloting in conjunction with University of Minnesota researchers. You can read more about this curriculum project here. You might also enjoy seeing more photos and reading more information about these science activities on Science Teacher Robert Eady’s website and Science Teacher Andy Milbauer’s website.

Mary Anna

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  1. You guys look like proud parents…good job!

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