What is butterfly gardening? Watch this video

To see the TV 20 coverage of the project on October 6, 2018 click here

Butterfly Gardens at Local Gainesville Schools

(this project is now coordinated by Alberto Lopez, alopez@floridamuseum.ufl.edu)

Many young children today are disconnected from the natural world, but a project to plant local butterfly gardens in area schools is closing the gap that exists between urban students and nature.

McGuire Center scientists began partnering with educators at a local elementary school in the fall of 2013 to open children’s eyes to the unique metamorphosis that occurs during butterfly development and the responsibilities involved in caring for a garden.

Andrei Sourakov, a lepidopterist at the McGuire Center, initiated the project and under his direction more than 20 schools and over 1000 school children participated in planting butterfly gardens and related learning activities.

Fall 2013 – Duval Elementary

Duval Elementary was the first school to participate in the butterfly garden program.

Making a Difference at Duval

“We live in an environment where kids do not have enough exposure to nature in order to learn how it operates,” said Duval teacher Anterria Ellerbe. “Thanks to the garden, these students do not take the natural world around them for granted anymore.”

The garden at Duval is teaching students how to be good stewards of the environment and providing them with a sense of accomplishment and responsibility, Sourakov said. He instructed the third-graders on how to care for the garden, and plant biology and entomology were integrated into the class’ science curriculum throughout the school year. The garden included nectar sources and host plants, on which butterflies lay their eggs. Students also kept a journal of their experiences in the garden and documented their newfound awareness of wildlife, including the life cycle of butterflies.

“I think co-existing with nature is something that is acquired through experiences,” Sourakov said. “This has to start with children and is best learned through outdoor experiences such as planting a butterfly garden. It is important that we begin to better appreciate wildlife, otherwise, development will continue to occur in places that should be conserved.”

Fall 2014 – Williams Elementary

Thanks to the generous donations from the public, this garden was created on Oct. 20, 2014 by the Florida Museum’s staff and students together with 4th-graders from Williams Elementary.

Spring 2016 – Norton

C. W. Norton school butterfly gardens was planted in April 2016 partnering with the 4th grade.

Spring 2016 – J.J. Finley Elementary

J. J. Finley school butterfly gardens was planted in April 2016 partnering with the 3rd graders.

Spring 2015 – Spring 2017 Westwood Middle School

The project also assisted the local middle school in acquiring plants for their butterfly garden. Below you can see the evolution of the garden within one year.

Spring 2017 – P.K. Yonge Elementary

The project created a new butterfly garden at P.K. Yonge Elementary on 29th of March partnering with the first-graders.


In 2018-2019, the project helped students to plant new butterfly gardens at Sidney Lanier Learning Center, Micanopy Cooperative Elementary School, and Stephen Foster Elementary.

We also continued working with Norton, J.J. Finley, Stephen Foster Elementary Schools and P. K. Yonge School, adding plants to the existing gardens, involving new students, and offering classroom activities about plant biology and pollination.

Even in the middle of the winter, the gardens provide an opportunity for students to study pollination biology and butterfly life cycle. Here is the flower bed at Stephen Foster Elementary school that was planted by 5th graders on November 1st, 2019. On January 31, 2020, it was covered with flowers and there were many caterpillars of the Monarch Butterfly.