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The Planet

Students Soar With Butterfly Ed.

The Planet, March 1997, Volume 4, number 2

"Butterflies are born, mate, lay eggs, are larvae, become adults and die in a matter of eight to 12 weeks," says volunteer and retired engineer Fred Adams, "so they make an ideal species for studying how environmental factors can affect and disrupt a life cycle."

A Sierra Club member for over 20 years and currently a member of the Butterfly Society of Virginia, Adams says he became more active in the Club when he recognized that educational efforts were absent from the Chesapeake Bay Group's conservation agenda. While group chair, he was approached by Club members and educators Steve Carozzo and Chris Cuozzo to do an environmental project for a group of advanced 7th-grade science students. Adams recommended a school curriculum focused on local Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and was strongly supported by Virginia Chapter Chair Tyla Matteson and by Atlantic Ecoregional Coordinator Joy Oakes.

"We're so focused on political actions that we really aren't experts at education," says Adams. "Joy recognized that a butterfly project could fit because it focused on a species that demonstrates the problems of wildlife in our ecoregion and makes the connection between the classroom and the natural world." Oakes then assisted by getting the Club to put up seed money for Adams' idea from the Avery Foundation. The Butterfly Society came forward with the rest.

The curriculum addresses all of Virginia's butterflies, but emphasizes those that migrate through the Chesapeake Bay region and depend on the health of the entire watershed. Adams himself participates not as a teacher but as an adviser, bringing in guest speakers and leading field trips.

"Students are presented with the problem that butterflies are decreasing in number and then try to understand the biological significance of the decline," says Adams. "They then create an action plan to turn the situation around."

Students have built butterfly gardens and produced field guides and a newsletter. Now Adams is seeking funds to broaden efforts and develop a curriculum that can serve as a national model. His local PBS station has offered to make all his student curricula available via the World Wide Web.

"The idea," says Adams, "is to ensure there are environmental activists in the future by pursuing a program that is long enough to have an impact on students -- and by bringing in people who can demonstrate their passion for the outdoors." For more information: Contact Fred Adams at (757) 467-2775; e-mail: <>

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