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History of Mission Butterfly

On September 13th, our team of students and teachers tagged and released monarch butterflies with several administrators and residents of the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home. This unique and uplifting learning experience served as the kick-off for our partnership with "Mission Butterfly". The initial idea for the Butterfly Therapy Project (as it was called at the time), came up during a telephone conversation between Robert Ruggery (Vector Control Specialist for the Pa. State Veterans Homes) and Dr. Robert Snetsinger (Professor of Entomology, Emeritus, Penn State University), in the fall of 1997. The initial idea was to create a room where the residents could come and enjoy the beauty of these creatures and learn something of their habits. With the blessings of David J. Langguth, Commandant, HVH, they were given a room and courtyard in which to raise their butterflies and culture plants to attract them.

In June of 1998, with support from Penn State and private donors, the project was launched. Regular classes and meetings were held for residents, a butterfly garden in a courtyard was developed with help from several residents and butterfly activities were provided: fieldtrips, butterfly rearing, and Monarch tagging. The butterfly room was first opened to the public in the fall of 1998. During this period of time, it was realized that the residents began to have something special to share with the public, especially young people, relatives and interested gardeners. They didn't feel as isolated, as they shared their knowledge with members of the community.

In early 1999, it was decided that the time was right for a bolder experiment. This led to additional commitments by the Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs and Penn State for a greenhouse to be built on the grounds of the HVH. Ground was broken in August and the greenhouse is completed today. The greenhouse facility will have an area for the production of native plants for butterfly gardens, a room for live butterflies which will be open to the public and an area devoted to the rearing of the Regal Fritillary, a threatened species of butterfly native to the eastern U.S. Our team was recently awarded two Venture Grants by the AASD Foundation that will enable us to pursue our plans for linking with this very worthwhile project.

We are planning interdisciplinary projects (using butterflies as our theme) in March and April, which, when completed, will be donated to the Veterans Home for their butterfly room and gardens. It is felt that the veterans are a valuable resource for our students. With butterflies as the spring board, they can work together, sharing an interest in these beautiful and amazing creatures. This mutual interest and associated activities will bridge the isolation gap and lead to a closer affinity between these young people and the veterans. To give our students background about veterans, a packet of information was given to them on November 10th regarding Veterans Day . They were assigned the task of interviewing a veteran from their family or from the staff at Keith. The team met in the auditorium to view several videos reinforcing the importance of veterans and their contributions, and the CNN video that was broadcast in August about Mission Butterfly , at the HVH. The students will be writing to veterans at the HVH once per month, until we visit the home sometime in April for the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for their newly constructed greenhouse. It is hoped that the students will get to meet their pen pals at that time.

Along with our projects (which will be donated to the home), we hope to have Mr. Ruggery , Dr. Snetsinger and several veterans assist us in the planting of monarch-attracting plants on the grounds at Keith. They hope to supply us with five butterfly boxes with monarch eggs and caterpillars, so that our students can observe the metamorphosis of these insects. We plan to have another butterfly release from the Keith steps, sometime in May. It is our hope that this project will be a memorable learning experience. The projects will be on display for many individuals to see and learn from-- news of Mission Butterfly is spreading rapidly.

Sherry Buck & Green Giant Team of Teachers