The Butterflies on the Go exhibit at Walt Disney World’s Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival provides more than just an up-close look at pretty butterflies. It also offers school-age kids and parents a hands-on approach to learning about butterflies. Here are five things kids can learn at the exhibit.
Education probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World. But the Butterflies on the Go exhibit presented by Go Go SqueeZ during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival just might change your mind. The exhibit provides more than just an up-close look at pretty butterflies. It also offers kids and parents a hands-on approach to learning about the fluttering beings. Here are five things school age kids can learn about at the exhibit.
1. The Life Cycle of Butterflies
Like most kids, I learned about the butterfly life cycle in elementary school. In fact, my eight-year-old daughter is currently learning about it in her school. That would have made this an especially timely visit for her; unfortunately I was visiting Epcot as part of the TravelingMom writers’ retreat and was not with my family. If she had been there, though, she would have seen an illustrated board explaining that the life cycle begins with eggs; then the larvae, or caterpillar, stage; and then the chrysalis stage, where the caterpillars form a pupa (chrysalis) from which they emerge as butterflies. Photos clearly show what each part of the cycle looks like, including the different stages of the pupa.
2. How to Identify the Types of Butterflies
Colorful signs placed throughout the plant- and flower-filled tent clearly explain the various types of butterflies and interesting facts about where they live or their habits. In addition, the signs described what the butterflies look like (accompanied by a photo) and a hint for how to find them within the butterfly exhibit.
For example, brush-footed butterflies tend to fly in a zigzag pattern, perhaps to avoid predators. Whites, on the other hand, fly by nearly constantly flapping their wings, rather than flapping and soaring like other butterflies. Plenty of both could be found fluttering among the plants and flowers, some sitting still long enough to have their picture taken.
3. How to Grow a Butterfly Garden at Home
Another sign in the butterfly exhibit shows how to take the lessons home and grow your own butterfly garden. First, find out which butterflies live in your region, then choose the right plants to attract them. Plant the garden in a sunny spot and provide water and shelter for the butterflies.
Many plants throughout the exhibit tent were accompanied by identifying signage so that visitors could see what they are, where they grow, and who eats them. For example, fennel grows in the southern United States – and is tasty to humans and swallowtail caterpillars alike. Kids can also see mango trees, pineapple, and many types of herbs growing and not only make the connection between the plant and the food they might already be familiar with, but also learn how the plant can offer benefits to other living things as well.
4. What Butterflies Are Like Close Up
It’s really hard to get a butterfly to land on you in your backyard or the school playground. With various types of butterflies fluttering in the air, the butterfly exhibit can allow kids and adults with a little patience or luck (or maybe both!) the chance to have a butterfly land on them and to see them up close. I saw a few adults who had been holding out a hand receive a visit from a butterfly. These people had been standing very still with a hand out – usually with the other hand on a camera or smart phone to capture the experience.
Toddlers and younger children might need to be reminded to be careful around the butterflies and watch where the step or walk, as I didn’t see any signs explaining this, as there usually are in permanent butterfly houses such as at zoos or conservatories.
5. The Soothing Power of Nature
There’s something about stepping into the butterfly tent, out of the crowds and Florida sunshine, that makes you stop and take a deep breath. The butterfly exhibit is a soothing respite from the typical theme park atmosphere – when I visited, the butterflies exhibit had classical music playing and the plants and fluttering butterflies created a calm and relaxing environment.
If I had been traveling with a baby, the butterflies exhibit would have been a great place to take a fussy little one to relax and get away from the crowds. There is no seating in the tent, however, so visitors have to stay on their feet while inside the tent. (Benches are located around the corner from the exhibit, in front of the Tinkerbell topiary.)