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After watching eight caterpillars transform through life's stages, students at Sugar Hill Elementary School finally saw them emerge as butterflies on Thursday.
The Junior Master Gardeners and other third-graders at the East Hall school watched the event in the school's new hummingbird and butterfly garden.
Master Gardener Karin Hicks has been teaching the children about the butterfly life cycle, which plants the insects like most and where the butterflies get their food.
Katherine Diaz, 9, said watching the butterflies fly away was bittersweet.
"I was sad to see them go because we raised them, but happy to see them free," she said. "Releasing the butterflies was my favorite part."
Third-grader Chloe Rodriguez helped release the butterflies from the cage.
"Watching them grow was so cool because I have never raised butterflies or caterpillars before," she said.
"It's kind of like raising babies, but different because they don't eat very much."
Third-grade teachers Catherine Bruce and Erin Giddens came up with the idea for the butterfly project. Students and their families built the hummingbird and butterfly garden at the beginning of the school year.
"We thought this would be a good way to recognize the students' hard work in the garden and give them a hands-on opportunity to learn," Giddens said. "I could tell the kids were really excited about the butterfly release."
This is the second year for the Junior Master Gardeners club at Sugar Hill, and Giddens said she hopes it will grow even more next year.
The students learned not only about butterflies but also about pollinators, vegetable gardening, composting and nutrition. In addition to raising the butterflies, the club created and maintained a vegetable garden and the butterfly and hummingbird garden.
"It's fun to teach and work with kids," Hicks said.
"Hopefully you can have a positive impact on what they are thinking and doing. This is a great way to teach kids about the environment, growing their own vegetables, where their food comes from and how to be good stewards of the environment."