A STEAM Butterfly Garden

Last May Birches students designed, built, and planted a butterfly garden using native flowering plants that attract butterflies. This project was inspired by the “Haven” installation at the nearby deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum that attracts and protects honey bees whose populations are declining in the United States. In June when the butterflies we had been raising in the classroom emerged from their chrysalises, we released them into our butterfly garden.

Over the summer teachers and families watered our several different gardens, including the butterfly garden. A few days ago, students were asked to make creative observational drawings in our gardens. Here are young artists at work in the butterfly garden.

This project seems to us to be a good example of a STEAM approach to education: Science (life cycle of butterflies)-Technology (using tools to build the garden)-Engineering (designing and building the garden)-Arts (both designing the garden and creating artworks--see photograph below)-Mathematics (creating scaled-down grid plans for the garden preparatory to building and planting).

There has been a lot of talk recently about the importance of adding the “Arts” to STEM to create a STEAM education. Birches has advocated this approach from its founding two years ago. Research published by Michigan State University does not surprise us: of the university’s 1990 to 1995 honors college graduates who majored in STEM fields, the graduates who owned businesses or filed patents were found to have had eight times the exposure to the arts as children compared with the general public. You may be interested in the Washington Post article that mentions this research.

And now, please enjoy these garden artworks: