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Selby Gardens Goes Wild About Literacy!

This spring, kindergarten children were introduced to the world of butterflies here at Selby Gardens! The students visited the Gardens from Title I schools, and were not only immersed in nature, but were introduced to a new way to experience and comprehend reading.

The field trip centered on Eric Carle’s children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Reading the book and exploring the Gardens provided context to the scientific lessons the literature provided.blank

“Our goal was to combine the ‘wow-factor’ of being in nature and exploring, with the lessons of the book,” explains Tracy Calla, Senior Manager of School and Family Programs. “In the Gardens we can create a more relaxed learning environment, compared to the pressure they sometimes face inside their classrooms to meet literacy benchmarks.”

Before the field trip, the students brought in baby pictures and discovered that people, as well as other organisms, change as they grow and develop. This lesson was reflected in the development of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Here at the Gardens, there was excitement and awe at seeing dozens of chrysalids hanging inside the butterfly display, along with an array of caterpillars munching on leaves, which allowed the students to see metamorphosis in real life.

“We used the book as a tool for further exploration in the Gardens. The kids became actively involved in scientific discovery using kaleidoscope goggles to see how the butterflies see and magnifying glasses to search for different types of eggs and caterpillars,” shared Tracy. Students became nature investigators, while also touching on sequencing, days of the week, describing details, and counting– all important fundamentals in a kindergarten classroom.


For most of the children, this visit to the Gardens was their first, along with many other firsts such as climbing trees, spotting pelicans, and looking over Sarasota Bay.  From learning the butterfly dance, to investigating leaves around the Garden, students as well as the teachers discovered the excitement that can come from taking the classroom outdoors.  More importantly, each student (more than 450 from six Title 1 schools) took a brand new copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar home with them to add to their personal libraries.

EdExplorations in the Gardens are made possible by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, whose grant allows teachers to cover the costs of the field trip, with further support from the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading—through the generosity of The Patterson Foundation—who sponsors the purchase of the books.