The pre-kindergarten class at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski finished the school year with a project that added some beauty to Vermont skies by hatching and releasing butterflies.

The four-year -olds in Micky Labonte’s Pre-K class studied the life cycle of butterflies and then watched that life cycle unfold before their eyes. Starting with eggs, the students patiently watched as the eggs hatched and became larvae, or caterpillars. They fed the caterpillars leaves and saw them grow until they became pupae, or chrysalises. Finally the chrysalises hatched into adult butterflies.

“The kids were fascinated by the ever changing form of the butterflies,” said Labonte, “and they were thrilled when the first adult butterflies emerged. They not only learned about the life cycle of a butterfly, they learned patience as they waited for each change to take place. They now know that nature may unfold slowly and can’t be fast forwarded!”

The final step was waiting until it was warm enough to release the butterflies outside to let them fly free. The students were excited to see the butterflies fly off into the wild but also delighted when some returned to land on their hands as a final treat for the young scientists. “We have done this project for a few years now,” said Labonte,” and I have to admit that I love it as much as the kids. Seeing the beautiful butterflies emerge from their cocoons and then fly off into the summer sky is always a thrill for me.”

St. Francis Xavier School is a Catholic elementary school that serves children throughout northwestern Vermont from preschool (age 3) to eighth grade.