A 25-foot mobile with over 2,300 butterflies is now on display at EdVenture Children's Museum in Columbia. Each butterfly is a work of art, hand-painted by fifth grade students from across South Carolina as a part of a community arts-integration project called the S.C. Butterfly Collaborative (SCBC).
Presented by the S.C. Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (SCGSAH) and directed by visual arts faculty member Elaine Quave, this project tied fifth grade science curriculum with artistic principles and exploration. In the fall, Quave visited 31 schools and two Boys and Girls Clubs to work directly with the students.
"In our sessions, I covered science standards, teaching them about monarch ecology and their endangered migration patterns, while also reviewing design principles such as pattern, rhythm, and symmetry as they painted their butterfly wings," explained Quave.
"It was fascinating to learn about the monarchs," said Carrie Hayes, fifth grade art teacher at Summit Drive Elementary School in Greenville. "And it's so important for young people to understand that they can have an impact on our ecosystem and that they can have a voice through their art. We really enjoyed this experience."
The SCBC exhibit, which is on display until May 12, represents the biological phenomenon of the North American Monarch Butterfly's winter migration, when millions of butterflies migrate south in colonies to converge on the Oyamel fir trees in Mexico. They cluster together creating a unique spectacle as the mountain-top tree branches are completely covered and weighed down by their mass.
According to data presented by Monarch Watch, a non-profit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas, Monarch populations have declined approximately 80 percent over the past two decades due to deforestation, a decline in food sources, herbicides and pesticides, and changing weather patterns.
"We hope to increase awareness of the plight of the monarch, while providing solutions we can all implement to help reverse these trends," explained Quave. "These solutions include planting food source plants, such as milkweed and coneflowers, determining when the best times are for using herbicides or pesticides, and participating in Journey North to help monitor butterfly sightings."
As part of the Governor's School's mission to serve as a resource for teachers and students in South Carolina, SCGSAH offers a comprehensive series of outreach programs, like the S.C. Butterfly Collaborative, designed to bring together artists, educators, community organizations, and students. These initiatives seek to match the school's resources with the needs and interests of schools and partners statewide.