Plugging Students into Nature through Butterfly Gardening

A Reconciled Ecological Approach to Insect Conservation


  • Jaeson Clayborn
  • Suzanne Koptur
  • George O’Brien


active learning, flagship species, place-based education, reconciliation ecology


This study implemented an active-learning curriculum unit involving butterfly conservation and gardening at three schools in south Florida. An experimental group of classes received plants to take home; students maintained their plants and observed insect activity for two months. The control group of classes did not receive take-home items. Students who maintained plants at home retained their knowledge of butterflies, ecosystems and environmental stewardship significantly more than those who did not. Surveys revealed all students demonstrated favorable interest in animals and plants; however, both groups reported lower interest in insects. After project completion, more students in the experimental group had new gardens at home than students in the control group (29 percent increase vs. 5 percent decrease).