One hundred butterflies flexed their wings last Friday afternoon as Marshall Middle Magnet IB World School students released them into a certified wildlife habitat on the school’s campus.
Some butterflies flew immediately to their new digs while others lighted on the hands and shoulders of delighted students.
The release was coordinated by science teacher and Eco-Action Heroes Club sponsor Ann Berringer, who, along with club members, created the habitat, certified as a Schoolyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and National Audubon Society. The club’s 62 members, that meet monthly, spent the last year readying the area by planting milkweed and other nectar plants that are necessary for the butterflies’ life cycles. The habitat has become an outdoor classroom where students learn how to attract and support local wildlife.
“We’ve seen three generations of Monarch butterflies in the garden,” she said.
Since Monarch butterflies have been designated as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, students released Painted Lady butterflies, purchased from local distributor Clearwater Butterfly.
“They eat the same things and we planted a variety of different butterfly flowers planted purposefully for the butterflies and pollinators,” said Berringer.
Students that participated in the release welcomed the hands-on outdoor learning activity.
Seventh grade student and club member Ashley Orlando enjoys being around animals. “Some animals deserve second chances, and we’re helping the earth,” she said. “If I find an animal injured I bring it home, nurse it back to health and release it.”
For Heidi Keiser, it’s her passion for gardening that drew her to the club. “I like being able to help living organisms survive in a healthier habitat,” she said. “One day I want to grow plants and sell them.”
Berringer’s passion for environmental responsibility extends beyond the classroom. She also spends her free time volunteering at Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, an organization that provides rescue, rehabilitation and care for Florida wildlife. “Every little creature of the earth needs our care and respect,” she said.