The 3-year-olds anxiously wait near the plants in the Forty Carrots Family Center butterfly garden. They peer through the leaves and exchange looks of anticipation in hopes of spotting one of the winged insects. As the clouds part and the sun shines through, a monarch butterfly appears, almost as if on cue, and the children spring into action, laughing and screaming as they excitedly chase after it.
The garden was installed during the summer as a learning aid, and since the children returned at the beginning of September, they’ve been taking full advantage of the hands-on, outdoor-learning opportunity.
“I love to watch the delight on the children’s faces as they learn and grow on their own,” says Rebecca Lockwood, who has been preschool director since August. “They’ll be playing, and, suddenly, they connect the dots, and you can see it on their faces. Everything is new and big to them, so it keeps me young and learning with them.”
The family center previously had a butterfly garden, and when it needed to be revitalized, Forty Carrots staff decided to post the project on GulfCoastGives.org, where it was funded in March. The funds from donors provided plants, irrigation and watering cans for the children.
Lockwood says the garden provides a great opportunity for the children to experience hands-on learning, utilizing all five senses, which she says is especially important in early-childhood development.
“Children learn best by doing,” she says.
And they’ve been involved from the start; they even helped plant the garden, which they still regularly tend to with watering cans. Each class also learns about the life cycle of a butterfly and the plants in the garden that provide food for the caterpillars, and they enjoy watching the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.
“I hope that when they’re a little older, they might look back at this experience and make that connection,” says Lockwood. “They’ll realize they weren’t just playing and having fun, but that they were learning about life cycles and creating a base of knowledge. I think that will translate into a lifelong love of learning.”
FORTY CARROTS FAMILY CENTER BY THE NUMBERS
• 4 Number of Unique Donors
• 12 Number of Projects Funded
• $389 Cost of the Butterfly garden
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